Monday, 20 April 2009

What is Recency?

Recency isn’t about radio or television or reach and frequency. It’s the simple idea that advertising influences the brand-choice of consumers who are in the market for the product. It’s about how we think advertising works. That’s why it has been able to transform our thinking Justify Fullabout how to plan advertising media. It's about how we think advertising operates in mature consumer markets. It’s relevance, not repetition that makes the message work.

Recency has become the buzz word of big agencies all over the world, and it's on the lips of marketing VIPs at mega-marketing Motors Recency such as is timing your advertising message to reach people at the moment they're actually in the buying cycle for your product or service.

The accent on Recency Planning is on reach, not frequency.

For 30 years planners had assumes that advertising worked by repetition leaving "tiny footprints on the mind." In the 1960s, advertising seemed so effective that public policy debated whether it "makes people buy things they don't need." The issue wasn't deception; it was power. We now understand advertising is a relatively weak marketing force, among many forces that affect consumers. Its strength is it can be applied continuously, because it does what it does at a very small cost compared to the major alternative, which is price promotion.

We have also gone through a revaluation of what makes consumers buy. We now appreciate it is the empty cereal box, the broken dishwasher, the expiring car lease, a bad hair day that gets people to make a purchase, not advertising.

Recency planning grows from the sound idea that consumer needs drive advertising effects. The critical variable is whether a consumer is "in the market," which means the timing as well as the targeting of the message is important. Visualize a window of advertising opportunity in front of each purchase. Advertising's job is to influence the purchase. Recency planning's job is to place the message in that window.

Recency is now a planning principle at major advertisers like Procter & Gamble, Kraft and Coca-Cola, because brand-sales tracking studies show it is cost-effective. But the ideas are new and uncomfortable: reach, not frequency; continuity, not flighting; one week, not four weeks; cost-per-reach-point, not just CPM. As a result, objections to recency have been swift and articulate.

Various studies show that one advertising exposure does most of the work when the viewer is in the market and that advertisement would be the most effective one.

There are various objections to recency.

1."How can one exposure be enough?" There is the fear that with all of the competing messages and clutter on television, a single-exposure strategy is likely to be ineffective.
Recency planning never claims that one exposure is enough. It argues that, in the short term, additional exposures are wasteful because the average viewer is not likely to be in the market. Scanner- panel data bear this out. They show that reaching more consumers less often will result in greater total sales than reaching fewer consumers more often, and the costs are about the same. The simple idea of attending to the easiest sales is the essence of recency planning. It is a skimming strategy. The idea is to "spend the money to make the most sales," not "spend the money to make every sale."

2.Recency planning will be an excuse for advertisers to spend less. After all, if a brand needs few exposures, it can cut the media budget.
Recency planning doesn't cut budgets. It reallocates them, reducing frequency to add weeks. Since most brands don't run 52 weeks of advertising, recency simply spreads the budget to spend it more effectively. Mega-brands running 52-weeks already (e.g., McDonald’s, Coke, AT&T) increase the number of planning periods to 104 half-weeks or even 365 days, because closer to the purchase is better and purchases occur constantly.

3. A low level of weekly frequency can’t work for a product that is purchased every four or five years.
Recency planning ignores purchase interval, because it targets the purchase not the purchaser. As long as there are purchases each week, it doesn’t matter how often, or seldom, the average consumer buys. When a consumer has not been in the market for the product in several years, as with cars, there is the idea that frequency is needed to jump-start awareness. The counter-argument is when a consumer is in the market, ads have greater relevance and are more likely to be attended to. Automobiles advertise continuously, but you see more car advertising when you’re thinking about buying one.

4. Recency may be fine for established brands, but isn’t frequency needed to maintain brands, and launch new products?
Recency planning does not eliminate frequency. Frequency is produced by the audience duplication between successive weeks of reach. Brand maintenance is not ignored. It is enhanced by more continuous advertising. This creates a kind of frequency called "presence." An appropriate word, because when advertising works, it's by being there. Product launches are a special case. They argue for greater frequency, but only because the goals are different from those of established-brand campaigns.

Advertising does many things. It influences the next purchase and, over time, builds brand awareness and saliency in the larger market, which in turn makes it easier to influence the next purchase. But recency's real contribution to advertising is to focus us on the next purchase, whether the brand is new or established--cornflakes or cars. Because if you don't get enough next purchase, the rest doesn't matter.

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