How Important is the Message

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Nov 28, 2023 by Sean Luce

Who hasn't heard the advertisers' great debate: Which is more important: the frequency or the message? Both are vital, but I have to side with the message in the commercials. If you run a message that says, "Tell us you heard this commercial and get 10 percent off," I can guarantee that it won't pull folks in. Yet I can drive through any city in the U.S. and hear it on the radio.

Upon returning from a market consulting trip to Greece, I was told by LPG (Luce Performance Group) office personnel that our V.P. of Entertainment (see, "About Us") was missing. An immediate search party in west Houston had turned up nothing. Over the next two days, more than 350 posters - 8.5" by 11" - were hung within a half-mile radius of where we lost him. No calls, nothing. We were not having fun - our entertainment was gone.

Changing Strategy

Well, the hunt was on for Ajax, named after a Greek warrior who fought alongside Achilles at the battle of Troy. Ajax is a 1-year-old Pomeranian who actually has a title at our company - in other words; he's part of the family.

The only call was from a person who wanted to sell us another Pomeranian. We searched all the shelters in Houston, an all-weekend effort - still nothing. We figured that he had been run over or that somebody had him and was not going to give him back.

We decided to get really serious. On Monday, I decided to give a $1,000 reward for little Ajax. We put our message in black print on 50 yellow plastic 18" by 24" signs with stakes normally associated with real estate open houses. Our thinking was that for a grand, somebody might turn in a neighbor - you never know.

When I travel, Ajax stays at another location, and this time he had dug a hole under a fence to escape right before I was to pick him up. Putting up the original 350 posters, I had noticed major traffic patterns within a mile radius of Ajax's escape. One of the most popular places of congregation was Wal-Mart, and I noticed a great variety of signs at the Wal-Mart exits. We also planned to hit all major intersections within a mile of his departure point.

Our new signs went up with no picture and these words: $1,000 Reward. The complete sign is shown below. The first call came in 45 minutes after the first sign went up across from Wal-Mart. A person thought they saw Ajax at a party on Saturday night. As I was talking to this person, another call came in, notifying us that they had Ajax. Within one hour of the first sign's placement, we had Ajax. In all, only 16 of the 50 signs went up before Ajax was located. And yes, we paid the bounty.

Application To Radio Sales

A case could be made for a full-page ad in the newspaper, since this was more about the message than the frequency. But I disagree: First, we did the research on where to put the signs (this parallels specific time slots for your client's radio commercials).

We were specific on the message: An ad that said only "reward" left doubt in people's minds about the benefit. (This is why "percentage-off" ads don't work.) The $1,000 reward was very specific and told the target group (whoever might have seen or had Ajax) what was at stake. We also choose the right geographic location for the message (it wouldn't have been any good if we put it in Galveston, 45 miles away).

At the end of the day, it takes frequency, correct placement, and research to pull this off - not much different from executing a program for one of your clients. How often do we overlook the message? In this case, the message was vital.

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