Don’t Annoy The Hell Out Of People!

(By Bob McCurdy) There was an interesting article last week titled “P&G’s Pritchard: Seize Back Control of Data, Reinvent Marketing and Stop ‘Annoying the Hell Out of People,\’” that touched on a subject we’ve previously addressed: the impact of heavy and light users of any medium or station and the number of times each are exposed to a message.

This excerpt caught my attention:

Procter & Gamble found that a large number of people were seeing its ads as often as 20 times a month, instead of the three-times a month it previously assumed. “We were annoying the hell out of people,” the FMCG giant’s chief brand officer Pritchard disclosed this morning at VivaTech in Paris. While P&G’s data showed it was reaching its audiences an average of three times a month, the average hid the fact that many people were being reached 10-times a month and even more were being reached 20-times a month. 

Clearly, the message is that averages can be misleading. One could drown in a lake with an average depth of six inches. The Pareto Principle or “80-20 rule” states 80% of something is consumed by 20% of its users. This overstates things in media a bit where it’s more like 20% of users account for 40%-50% of all usage, with the lightest users accounting for only about 1% of all usage.

This leads to a frequency imbalance that Pritchard described, and speaks to the importance of a media mix as unbalanced campaigns result in the heaviest users being bludgeoned, with the lightest users being missed entirely. No one sets out to advertise to annoy the hell out of people.

Let’s look at Internet use in Tampa. It might come as a surprise that not everyone is hooked online:


Some takeaways from the chart above are:

a) The heaviest quintile (20%) of Internet users account for 44% of all usage with the lightest quintile accounting for only 0.6%. In fact, 40.6% of Tampa adults only account for 7.9% of all Internet usage.
b) In Tampa, the average adult spends 7.3 hrs/week on the Internet but the heaviest users access it 3x as much as the average, with the lightest, accessing it only 3% as much.
c) There’s a vast difference in Internet usage between the heaviest Internet users (20 hrs/week) vs the light users (15 minutes). If time spent online translates to ad exposure, which is a safe assumption, the heaviest Internet users would be exposed to 80x more online commercials than the lightest (20/0.25 or 15 minutes).
d) The lightest Internet users can be more effectively reached on radio, with the lightest Internet quintile listening for 8.2 hours/week, with the light Internet user tuning in for 10 hours/week.
e) Attempting to reach the light and lightest of online users in Tampa will result in the type of unbalanced frequency of exposure P&G’s Pritchard that “annoys the hell out of people.”

The same heavy/light user syndrome that we saw with the Internet holds true for TV.


The average adult, according to Nielsen, watches TV 3.7 hours/day, but once again averages can be misleading.

The heaviest 20% of TV viewers view TV 10.1 hours/day and account for over half of all TV viewing with the lightest 20% watching only 12 minutes/day, accounting for a paltry 1.1% of all TV viewing. This translates to the heaviest viewers being exposed to 50.5x (10.1/0.2) the number of TV commercials as the lightest viewers. This again leads to the situation that Pritchard describes above.

Interestingly, what Pritchard describes in last week’s article is not a new phenomenon. In August of 2012 in an article titled “TV Ad Campaigns Fail to Reach Audiences,” Emily Steel wrote:

Nationwide U.S. television advertising campaigns are failing to reach a large portion of their target audiences, according to new research based on TV viewing data. Using figures from Nielsen and Kantar Media, ad targeting company Simulmedia has found that in many cases as many as three-quarters of marketers’ TV ad impressions are viewed by just 20 percent of their target audiences. According to its report, Unilever’s $6.3M TV ad campaign for its Axe body spray was not seen by 60 percent of the 18 to 24-year-olds it was intended to reach in March this year. Similarly, Progressive Insurance spent $31.9m on television ads in June, but a fifth of all adults older than 20 did not watch any of its TV ads that month.

The next year, in November of 2013, Robert Norcross wrote in an article titled “Pricing and Impact Are Stymied When Too Many Viewers See the Same Ads Too Often”:

Given the sophistication of marketing planning these days, it should be more of a surprise that heavy TV viewers still see many ads far more often than marketers ever desired. That overexposure still accounts for most TV ad impressions, but it yields far less value — or even ad revenue — than the sheer repetition would suggest.

Ten years ago, Erwin Ephron wrote about Duplication Planning concluding that when it came to TV campaigns, radio should be included not “if there’s extra money” but to make TV “work better.”

In the same article, Pritchard was quoted as saying, “You can cut waste and reinvest in reach.” I agree. Any first impression is “reach.” Every subsequent impression is “frequency” and while some frequency is necessary to maintain brand presence, the type of wanton, excessive frequency that is piled up against the heaviest of users of any medium due to overuse, results in “annoying the hell out of people” and wasted ad dollars. Add another medium to the mix.

When it comes to marketing experts, Marc Pritchard is as good as it gets and P&G ranks among the most sophisticated of all advertisers. If this type of impression imbalance was happening to P&G, it could be happening to any advertiser. Be on guard.

Radio is the perfect antidote to avoid annoying the hell out people.


Bob McCurdy is Vice President of Sales for the Beasley Media Group.
This article was previously featured in Radio Ink

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