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What Is Effective Frequency?

Effective frequency is the optimal number of times a consumer should be exposed to an advertisement to elicit a desired response. Striking a balance between underexposure and over-saturation, it ensures messages resonate without annoying the audience. But how do we pinpoint that sweet spot in an ever-changing digital landscape? Dive deeper with us to unlock the secrets of advertising success.
Jim B.
Jim B.

Effective frequency is a marketing term relating to the amount of times that an advertising or marketing message must be put across to consumers before all the information is conveyed. In other words, at a certain point the consumer watching or listening to the message will have complete understanding of what it is the marketers are trying to say. The accurate number for effective frequency has been widely debated over the years in marketing circles, ranging every where from one to three to even as much as six to 12 messages before consumers have thoroughly absorbed the message. This can be a crucial number for marketers to pin down, because it represents the most cost-effective use of marketing messages.

Businesses marketing a product must find a way to get their messages heard and seen by the public. In the modern world of marketing, there are so many different messages being broadcast that it can be hard to get through the clutter. For that reason, companies may have to be patient with putting across a specific message until it properly reaches the public. The amount of times that an advertisement or piece of marketing material must be conveyed to the public before it is truly realized and understood is called the effective frequency.

Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone
Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone

For a long time, the effective frequency of an advertisement was believed to be three. In other words, by the third time the ad is heard or seen by a consumer, he or she will have taken all of the necessary information from the ad and processed it. This assumption is problematic in that no two consumers see or hear a message in the same way every time. In many cases, it might take certain consumers shorter or longer to truly get the message.

Still, it is crucial for marketers to try and reach an accurate total for effective frequency. In this way, they can properly budget for how many advertisements need to be run. If the research of a marketer shows that the frequency is six, that's how many times an advertisement should air for the best results.

Without a proper gauge of effective frequency, marketers can wind up wasting advertising money. This is because advertising works on a principle of diminishing returns. What this means is that the more times that an advertisement is shown past its optimum amount, the less impact is made on the consumer. Advertisers who go past this optimum frequency are essentially spending more money for less return.

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