Creative Partners Group

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Ebbinghause Throws a Curve

In 1885 the first skyscraper penetrated the skies above Chicago…all nine stories. This was also the year that Hermann Ebbinghause published studies about memory. The Ebbinghause Curve of Forgetting has since been the foundation of advertising’s most effective strategy: frequency. The Ebbinghause studies showed that two-thirds of us forget specific messages one day after exposure. After one week, only a quarter of us can remember those messages.
Ebbinghause Curve

Just as we finish reading an ad our recall is 100%, but for the vast majority of us, that recall quickly fades (as indicated by the blue-green parabolas). Ebbinghause's research showed that each repetition of a particular message builds on previous exposures to significantly improve recall. Imagine throwing mud at a wall. The first handful mostly falls away, leaving just a mark. Keep throwing, however, and more and more of the mud sticks. In fact, the amount that sticks with each throw increases as the mud finds a grip. Your ads are the mud. Keep throwing them to see them stick better and better!

Repeating an Ad Gives You More Ad Action

Reed Business Research analyzed "Remembered Seeing" scores for 3,117 advertisements from 696 companies. It found that these scores increased in direct proportion to increased ad frequency.Remeber Seeing chart

The results clearly attest to the power of frequency to create awareness among your prospects.

Increased frequency can also result in an increase in action taken—a visit to your web site, phone call or reader service inquiry. The Ludlow Corporation ran the same ad for Soil Saver® mesh in one engineering publication 41 times over an 11-year period! While the number of inquires received from the ad did vary from month to month, it remained high throughout the ad's life span. In fact, the ad generated it highest levels of inquiries the 21st, 29th and 36th time it ran. The 41st time it ran, it out-pulled the first 19 times.

Repeating an Ad Increases Product Sales

An ARF/ABP Study showed that a single ad could keep working for a full year and more. It not only can continue to generate ad action, it can also increase sales.

Advertising for a portable safety product was repeated for 12 months in a single specialized business magazine. Prospects were divided into three groups and exposed to different levels of advertising. After 12 months of repeated ads, sales had increased in all three groups--265% in the low-ad group, 270% in the medium exposure group, and 670% in the high-exposure group. After 18 months--six months after the ads had actually stopped--ad sales were still at all-time highs from the cumulative effect of the ad campaign.

Frequency is King!

Ultimately, it’s hard to run an advertisement too frequently. Frequency is king! Even though you, the advertiser, might be bored and tired of an ad (sometimes even before it ever runs), readers need to have it around awhile before they become saturated.



Your marketing can be twice as effective if you aim it at both right-brained (emotional, aesthetic) and left-brained (logical, sequential) people. The North American population is about evenly divided, so if you use only one approach, half your advertising budget will be wasted.