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Photo: Mint
Photo: Mint

There’s nothing like too much advertising

More exposure leads to an increase in spontaneous awareness, which can be very useful in some categories or during new product news

Pata hai yaar, paka diya sabko na…", says Sasha Chettri, the face of Airtel’s 4G services, in one of the new television commercials by the telecom company, taking a dig at her own earlier ads. Her comment could well apply to the current set of ads too as they have been irritating viewers by their sheer frequency during the ongoing T20 World Cup cricket series. However, it is not just the Airtel 4G ads that can be held responsible for irking television audiences during the cricket matches. There are other culprits, too, like OPPO, Flipkart and Nissan, which have been playing their commercials incessantly during the short breaks.

Of course, sponsors, who have paid through their nose to ride the popular T20 World Cup, have every right to push their brands. According to a Mint report published on 8 March, the presenting sponsors have shelled out 25 crore each for their association with cricket. Among them are e-commerce firm Flipkart, automobile company Nissan Motors India Pvt. Ltd and Chinese smartphone maker OPPO. Each of these advertisers gets about 125 seconds of airtime per match. The eight associate sponsors are each paying between 15 crore and 20 crore with about 80-100 seconds of airtime per match.

But what happens to brands in case of excessive advertising? How much is too much in advertising? And what is that threshold when brands start annoying the receivers of their messages, leading to ad fatigue?

While media specialists at ad agencies come up with a surfeit of reasons to justify over-advertising during the World Cup, they agree that ad fatigue exists in the world of marketing. Ad fatigue is when the same ad runs frequently, loses relevance, becomes a blind spot or even irritates, says Anupriya Acharya, group chief executive (CEO) at media agency ZenithOptimedia India. Excessive familiarity with the ads leads to boredom. Harsha Joshi, executive vice-president (group trading) at Dentsu Aegis Network, says that ad fatigue causes the ad campaigns to become less effective over time, hurting the return on investment.

Yet, there is no one answer to how much is too much in advertising. This could vary from case to case. Ads which are entertaining, have humour, or music or even multiple storylines tend to keep fatigue away or at least the fatigue comes in after many more exposures, feels Acharya. There is no one threshold either. Some studies show that ad fatigue can set in anytime between 3 and 25 exposures, she says. However, Joshi says three exposures are just not good enough for several competitive categories like the packaged consumer goods. Only when the ad is seen many more times does it become a blind spot as well as a case of diminishing returns, she adds.

Interestingly, if you observe consumer behaviour on digital media, where the consumer has a choice of either watching or skipping an ad, instances of skipping are way more than watching the ad. This happens especially when the consumer is in an active mode of seeking either information or entertainment. TV and print on the other hand are more “lean back media" where viewers/readers have been conditioned over the years to see the ads. Hence not only are they more tolerant but even expect advertising to play a role in providing information or entertainment, says Acharya. But such behaviour is changing as most of the information given by the ads in the past can now be searched at their convenience. Clearly, the ads have to be ever more engaging or provide new information.

But surely carpet-bombing the consumers with advertising can exhaust and irritate them. Acharya says she believes that consumers get irritated with too much advertising in general and not with one or two brand messages specifically. “That’s because it is coming in between her/him and the content. But it’s a stretch if we believe that this will lead to some sort of hostility towards the brand. Apathy, irritation and mentally blocking out the ad—maybe yes— but not hostility," she says. Hostility does not come from overexposure but from messaging that goes against the grain of consumer values or beliefs.

Surprisingly, media buying specialists do not see T20 World Cup making a case for ad fatigue. They say T20 offers huge blips to brands, especially those with a male skew, as it delivers both reach and impact. The matches do not allow ad clutter as the breaks are short, adding to the impact as the consumer is unable to move away. The flip side is that since you are not moving away, the repeat commercials annoy you even more.

For top-of-the-mind recall, sometimes brands hit you so hard that you don’t forget their messages, says Joshi, justifying advertising around T20. With brands out-shouting one another and messaging coming from various media, high frequency advertising becomes necessary.

Agrees Vikram Sakhuja, group CEO Media and OOH (outdoor) at Madison: “Reality is that advertisers love it when their ads are highly visible. As far as consumers are concerned, despite the seeming irritation, reality here too is that excessive is better than insufficient." More exposure leads to an increase in spontaneous awareness, which can be very useful in some categories or during new product news, he says.

So the consumer has to just grin and bear it.

Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pressing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff.

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