Tuesday, 15 December 2009


It is said that if you are introduced to a new person, you should use their name immediately as many times as you can for it to stick. e.g.: ‘Hi Sam, nice to meet you. So, what is that you do Sam?’
Don’t be discouraged, no one ever notices the apparent overuse of their names. Why? Because it’s one of the sweetest things we can ever hear… So repeat it to remember - at least three times in the first five minutes of meeting them.

And that is the definition of frequency exactly: the number of times the message is being repeated within a certain time period.
A ’legacy concept from the one-way communication era’, but still relevant today, frequency is used in media planning to achieve the communication goal, or campaign objective. Which will also determine the number of repetition. ’Effective frequency is expressed as the number of exposures necessary to produce an effect’ (Surmanek, p110), but as a general rule, the more detailed the message the higher frequency needed for people to memorise. But wait. Apart from finite media budgets, is there no upper limit at all to the number of repetitions?

This takes me back to one of my earlier posts about an advertisement for a popular online auction site, at a city train station, which I saw again this evening and many others since then. Credit to the billboard, not only did it achieve it’s frequency goals, but also recency, in other words reach and continuity, as I went home and logged on to the site. But on the flipside, by now, I have probably started ignoring it.

So yes, there is an upper limit to frequency beside budgets. Media planners’ challenge is to find that fine balance of sufficient repetition to assist memorising, but not too much to avoid wastage and for the message to become annoying.


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