Posted by: distributorcap | May 9, 2009

Reach and Frequency

Advertising is nothing more than a message. Psychologists and marketers can make up all the fancy terms and sociological structures – an ad is a simply a message.

One thing about advertising, as retailing giant John Wanamaker once said, “I know that half of my advertising doesn’t work. The problem is, I don’t know which half.” This means advertisers are constantly throwing out all kinds of messages in all different forms – some of it gets seen and absorbed, some of it gets seen and not absorbed, and some of it is wasted – but you just really never know what message from which media are working. It is often just as risky as putting a bet on the pass line.

But advertising does works – and it works many ways.

It is critical to plan your

  • message
  • messenger and
  • delivery

correctly – it can get awfully expensive pushing out the “wrong” half all the time. Making an error in any of those three key juncture points will generally mean an expensive and dismal failure for your business.

One of the most basic (and simple) concepts of advertising is reach and frequency. Reach is how many people in your target group are seeing your message. Frequency is how many times those people are seeing that message. Pretty straightforward. When developing that ad campaign you generally want to reach the maximum number of people the right number of times – without spreading too thin and without being so pervasive you becoming annoying. Example: you make Tide (Procter & Gamble) – you want to reach housewives with kids. To reinforce your message of how great Tide is – you determine these housewives need to see the ad X times. If someone sees the ad 75x, they just start hating it.

Related to reach and frequency (and stolen from economics) is diminishing returns. After a certain point the cost of developing and delivering your message far outweighs the return (or benefit) you get from people seeing the message. If it costs $100,000 to reach 100,000 mothers to buy $5 boxes of Tide – but only 1,000 of them will ever buy Tide – you have hit diminishing returns. Spending more will not generate more sales.

So what is my point other than rehashing Marketing 101?

The Republicans, in addition to being evil, arrogant and tone deaf – really need a lesson in basic advertising. The have failed so miserably in concept, delivery and basic fundamentals – they are making New Coke and the Edsel look as successful as Pet Rocks and Clappers.

First of all, if you are going to advertise your product (the Party) – you actually need some sort of message – any message. “Don’t buy Downy, buy Tide” is not a message, it is a cop out. While negative advertising can (and does work) – it cannot succeed in a vacuum without perspective and defense. Hence you should say – Republicans will make your clothes softer and smell better than the rough and stinky Democrats.

This message has to show some semblance of originality, creativity and thought. “Things Go Better with Republicans” just won’t cut it. And it will help if the message is consistent. Having a ‘listening’ tour one day, then a changing it to an ‘education’ tour the next day does send out, what ad professionals call, the dreaded ‘mixed message.’

Lately the GOP message is pretty mixed – a concoction of plutonium, limberger cheese and cyanide.

Since most of America is pretty dumbed down these days – they actually often think non-messages are messages. 21st century marketing has shown that you can sell your product without actually having any message (see Bush, George W.).

What about the messenger?

To buy into a concept – people usually need to like (or love to hate) your messenger – since most people simply cannot separate the message from the messenger. You know the expression – “don’t kill the messenger.” – well in the case of the GOP, they should probably execute ALL of their messengers. If 80% of the target audience hates your messenger – it almost doesn’t matter what the message (or non-message) is – no one hears it.

Surprising as it sounds, people actually like (or love to hate) the creepy Six Flags guy, Ronald McDonald and Mr. Whipple. When you have messengers with such negative ratings like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Michael Savage, Eric Cantor, Michelle Malkkkin, Tom Delay, Mitch McConnell, Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney or any of a whole slew of couriers in the GOP, it is often rough to sell even a good message. Just because this select group of cretins can weasel their way onto the talk show circuit, it doesn’t mean they are capable of selling snow to Eskimos. It really is hard to hear what someone is saying when you have already hit the remote button.

This is where reach, frequency and diminishing returns enter the formula.

Imagine sending no message via a hated messenger – and then reaching a WIDE audience with GREAT frequency. What a way to insure success! If your goal is to influence and change behavior – can you think of a better way than beaming pixels (very fat pixels) of Rush Limbaugh – with his message of no message – to millions of people – and then banging it into their head hundreds of times a week. It ends up reinforcing why you hate the viagra-filled pervert to begin with.

In reality there is an audience for the Rush non-message, but the GOP has this draconian fear they are not getting the non-message (maybe it has to do with dwindling Republican identification). SO what does Rush do? He spreads his hate with such intensity and such frequency that the law of diminishing returns quickly set in. It gets awfully expensive reinforcing that errant “base” over and over again. And the reason the GOP chooses to reinforce with such fervor – to insure the flock continues to feel good about the snake oil they are buying.

Think Tylenol 1982 – after tragic news and deaths connected to the product, Johnson & Johnson had to respond in a sensitive and compelling way. The last thing they needed was a poorly crafted message delivered by an odious messenger reaching way too many people, too many times. As I see it, having Rush Limbaugh constantly hammering out his non-message (just say NO to Democrats) would have been akin to having Reverend Jim Jones go on Good Morning America to say “buy Tylenol, and wash it safely down with Kool Aid.” By structuring a careful and coordinated plan rolled out with the right words and tenor so as to assure people they were not buying poison, J&J was able to mount an extremely successful comeback from a devastating PR nightmare. Using Tom Delay and Michele Bachmann as calming influences to a very nervous nation is like having Ted Bundy being the spokesman for

One thing for sure, the Republicans are not Tylenol, they aren’t even New Coke or the Tin Lizzy. No, the Republicans are more like a fine potato soup called vichyssoise – one made by Bon Vivant.

Is this anyway to run an airline, ask Rush, only his hairdresser (or pharmacist) knows for sure.


  1. I hope they decide that what they have to do is yell louder. That should finally end their filthy social experiment. Then the democrats can assume the role the republicans used to have and maybe, finally we can have a party that runs to the left of the blue dogs and other assorted assholes. Because I like to dream big, that’s why.

  2. As long as Dickless Cheney and Rush Limbaugh are the spokespersons for the Rethugs (since not joe the not plumber dropped out) and Hannity screams about mustard on hamburgers, their numbers will go down and the Presidents will go up. It can only be good for the Independents. They will soon be the biggest party. If they aren’t already. I really hate to hear that though, because we need a 2 party system. I shudder to think what we may have next. I remember the Tylenol murders though.. that was terrible.. I read a book about them just not long ago.. It really brought back how scared we all were at that time.

  3. Shh! Don’t help the bozos out of their nightmare! Let them just keep on doing the wrong things. We need all the time we can get with the snails pace we are achieving as far as regaining civil liberties, prosecuting those who committed war crimes, the hoped for saving of the environment, not to mention fix health care, our schools, and our nation’s infrastructure. (I haven’t even mentioned the economy!) Democrats, and the Obama administration, need to show us some progress, Yeah, a few things have been done I know, but MUCH MORE needs doing soon! But hehe, let the rushpublicans keep on sending out their bungled sales job; let them keep sinking in the poles.

  4. Amazing post, D-Cap. I used to be a creative director for an ad agency and I found your observations right on the money.Now I’d like to add examples of some horrible and fantastic political messaging.First the horrible:The Republicans have a tacit agreement among members to refer to their opponents as “the Democrat party.”Because the word is used incorrectly, it casts aspersions on their credibility as critics.It would be like me bitching about the wars in Iraqi or Africaganistan.The Democrats, finding themselves with a great new president and majorities in both houses, set out to kick the Republicans while they were down to safeguard their new majority.Political strategist James Carville, who is essentially a creative director for the Democratic party, came up with the superb plan to cast Rush Limbaugh as the de facto leader of the Republican party.As Republican politicians lined up to vehemently deny his leadership position, they suddenly recanted within 24 hours, proving that Limbaugh indeed has the power to dictate to elected politicians what they can and cannot say.Last night on Real Time with Bill Mahar when Carville was asked if he had masterminded the plan, he replied, “No, I was just the communications director for Rush. He was sending that message and I just wanted to help him get it out there.”Now it’s a common assumption that Limbaugh is the de facto (or I like to call it ‘de fatso’) leader of the GOP.With Limbaugh making no effort to deny it and Republican politicians too frightened to debunk the legend, it has stuck in the public consciousness.

  5. What pissed said. Just keep on yelling, you lunatics. The more psychopathic, the better, ’cause the outcome will either be 1)they’ll cease to exist as a viable party or 2)they’ll eventually takeover with much madness and that’ll be entertaining, like a bad reality show, except more participatory.

  6. Good point about the message and the messenger. Sarah Palin and Bobby Jindal and even Eric Cantor have been promoted as the “new” faces of the gOLDp. However, like old wine in new bottles, its still vinegar.Now we have old hard liners like Cheney and Limbaugh grasping and clasping and basically begging not to change the message of the party. Of course, nobody really knows what that message is other than “don’t let this get away from the white guys”. No disrespect to Michael Steele, but they don’t really think you’re important. Steele has been relegated to the Joe Louis role of welcoming visitors to Caesar’s Palace.The reality is that you can’t advertise nothing and expect a reasonable return. Its going to take some time and most likely any rationale message from the gOLDp will come in response to mistakes that the dems will make over time. Its what happened to them over the past 8 years and its inevitable that’s what will happen.The one real worry is that some marginalized clown today that is considered “fringe” can somehow create a groundswell of populist support, ie. Hitler 1923 vs.1933.

  7. There were two competing diaries on the rec. list at dKos the other day. One was telling KO and Rachel Maddow to stop wasting time on the insane rantings and ravings of OxyRush, Bill O’Reilly and Hannity and stick more to the real issues. The other diary was telling them to keep up the coverage of their idiocies.I read both and decided that there still has to be some some coverage of this for the people that do not understand how extremist those faux conservatives are, but that I was getting a bit tired of it myself. Neither diary completely reflected my opinion.Needless to say, I conclusively rec’ed them both!Given what I have learned here (another fine post, indeed!) I suppose that I can suffer through those stories a while longer considering there are still the 20%ers that have not figured out this stuff yet. I am certain many of them know exactly what it is about and go out and lie the lies along with their crazy leaders knowingly and willingly. But there still has to be some that may yet be reached with some semblance of reason.

  8. wolf! abortion wolf!tax cuts wolf! immigration wolf!terrorists wolf!democrat wolf!liberals wolf!budget deficet wolf!left wingers wolf! smaller government wolf! wolf!wolf!wolf! wolf! wolf!Now I hate the word wolf. Oh and drug commercials too.

  9. Head On! Apply directly to the foreheadHead On! Apply directly to the foreheadHead On! Apply directly to the foreheadHead On! Apply directly to the foreheadHead On! Apply directly to the foreheadWhat a brilliant marketing scheme! The commercial is SO annoying it actually gives you a headache, thereby promoting the product they are selling!Plus, what is the likelihood you would forget how to take the product?Here's the thing– if the Democrats are the party of the people, and the state of affairs are in such total shambles (blame it on the GOP), but in an attempt to fix it, eff things up more. What the hell could the GOP possibly have to offer in this scenario?(Picture Rush Limbaugh singing a chorus of "I can eff things up better than you")The dumbed down public are more in an uproar over KFC running out of free grilled chicken coupons (as seen on Oprah), than they are over the fact Chrysler & General Motors, taking the combined $22.2 billion we gave them as LOAN money, to be paid back, and writing it off in their bankruptcy filings.Where's that HEAD ON applicator???

  10. Killed by the same free market, capitalist system they espouse as the solution for every crisis.Irony.

  11. what the rethugs are doing consistently is paring down their message so that they can sell it to people who are already sold. they aren’t bringing anyone new into their customer base. funny thing is, even if you have a loyal customer, all you have to do is screw up a couple of times, and they will go shopping for someone else’s product. the rethugs consistently fail to deliver, and all the new and improved labels they keep sticking on their failed product are not doing any good.

  12. You might not be, but some in this country might be surprised at what is successfully “advertised” in this country.

  13. Another dazzling post. And packed with goodies.One of my favorites for the blend of ads and propaganda (= message) is Edward Bernays. A shamelessly effective spin meister.

  14. you guys are too kind….. i actually do hope the GOP keeps rush and sean as spokespeople, because their ‘leaders’ will be needing a lifetime supply of Head-onit is amazing to me that they dont see how dangerous Rush and Sean are to their “party” — what a beautiful bind they are in.i firmly believe in a two (or rather) multi party system — only not THAT party — the GOP is not a party, it is a cult of deranged thugs.

  15. Lately the GOP message is pretty mixed – a concoction of plutonium, limberger cheese and cyanide.Perfect description. Can we add a tablespoon of bullshit to it?

  16. What a great post and ingenious way to show the way the GOP is hurting themselves with their own messages and messengers.

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