Repetition is a basic in advertising. If an ad (or commercial) works once to bring in prospects and sales, repeat it. If results are satisfactory, repeat it again—and then again, etc., etc. Some ads never seem to wear out. Become boring, yes; but they still bring a good return in sales.
Some window coverings merchants, design studios for example, use the same "formula ad" for
years. Satisfactory repeat ads save budgets, time and stress. No wonder retailers get upset when a one-time winning ad does poorly when repeated.
Here's a common comment I've heard often from average independent window coverings retailers: "Why don't I get better results and more prospects from the money I spend on repeat advertising? One time my ad gets good traffic and extra sales. Next time the same ad, with everything much the same, gets poor results—no sales to ring up. I can't bother to plan and worry over every lousy ad every time I run it. What goes wrong?"
I can understand the concern. I know how disappointing it is to waste budget dollars on an ad that doesn't produce expected sales. I studied, too, to find answers when I helped plan and produce many ads, most of which were repeated at one time or another. Some reruns worked as good as before, some were just OK, occasionally we had very poor results.
I finally concluded, as have most of the so-called experts, that we don't have a final answer to the puzzle of repeat ads that don't work as planned. We may follow the basic rules that do exist, but we must deal with too many variables including Murphy's Law and the weather. Numerous unforeseen events can change expectations. Even acts of nature, civic activities, road repairs and traffic conditions, and television programs can affect store traffic. Among these unpredictables are the responses of readers and prospects.
Before discarding the once-successful ad, try to determine what might have gone wrong. Review results carefully with your media representatives and ad agency people (if you have an agency). Let them know you are anxious for their explanations in order to determine your future advertising investments.
Have them double-check on the conditions of the advertising insertion. Was the position of the ad in a newspaper or broadcast exactly as specified? Were elements and details in the ad the same as before?
How about pricing? Did you make a last-minute change in price listings? Insert an added discount or an increase because of a competitive ad or promotion? Did you or a media person make a type or color change in the ad? Use larger type or special graphics to accent a price change or benefit?
When changes are made in a repeat ad or commercial it usually involves a pricing change of some kind. That's easy to understand. Establishing a correct price is an area of just about constant concern for every retailer.
How to feature prices in an ad also is frustrating for advertisers. Price competition seems to increase every year. It doesn't just seem to increase, it does increase. So much so that many retailers consider pricing the all-important element in their advertising. A discount price of some kind is featured in every ad, changing as needed to meet competitors' prices.
No question, pricing always is an important benefit to consumers. But, as many independent and specialty retailers have found, it's easy to lose the pricing battle. The struggle to survive on prices alone can be long, traumatic and sad at times.
So, these merchants stress other benefits in their ads to prospects. They direct their messages to the more affluent homemakers who are more interested in their decorating know-how and design talents. Price is mentioned, but not dominant. The emphasis is on store personnel, experience and special services available to help with widow stylings.
With price ads, one discounted offer lower than a competitor's may clinch a sale. But image ads, selling decorating know-how and services, require a long-range, consistent ad program. That's why it makes good sense to use repeat ads. And why you should determine, if at all possible, why a repeat ad didn't perform as well as hoped.
If you can't find any reason why an ad was a flop, don't give up after one try. Use it again if budget permits. Maybe it was just an unusual combination of circumstances that affected results.
Not every ad is a winner the first time either. You may find the repeat ad works much better than it did when first inserted. Sometimes, it takes more exposure to produce a winner. It's just more of the repeat ad puzzle.
If you find, after your investigation, that some changes had been made from the original to the repeat ad, correct them if possible and run the ad again. Maybe it will get better results and your initial investment will not have been wasted. If the ad flops again, then maybe it has no appeal for your prospects. You will have to decide on future reruns.
WORTHY OF STUDY
It's well worth your time to study ad results on a regular basis. Maybe you can find the right formula for an ad that can be a consistent winner.
Satisfactory repeat ads are almost a necessity for window coverings retailers and design studios. Consider the potential savings in time, creative planning and production costs. Further, you can purchase multiple inserts and expand your ad program into other media and sales promotions.
Repeat ads do more than help your budget and build store image. They help create name identity for owners and decorators, increase customers' awareness of their decorating needs and expand knowledge of your products and services.
Several decades ago, advertisers were leery of running too many repeats of the same ad or commercial. Some research group stated that potential prospects became bored and turned off by repetitious ads and commercials. It reported that one should repeat an ad only seven times. They also theorized that prospects turned negative on products when commercials were repeated more than 13 times.
That theory didn't last long. Obviously not many advertisers paid it much attention. Now some ads and commercials are run ad infinitum. Some sports programming advertisers will run 13 repeat spots during the same game or sports event. Their spot may drive viewers to drink, but the repetition also burns the brand name and image into one's memory. Some retailers, depending on the product and ad's results, repeat the same ad regularly for years. The conclusion: A repeat ad is desirable so long as it works for you. A winning ad is everything.
John J. Lichty is a consultant and senior editor for Draperies & Window Coverings magazine. He has more than 30 years experience in the planning and administration of various consumer, trade and retail advertising programs.