Reach & Recency


Some 20 years ago the way we plan Advertising changed dramatically. The old TV-driven idea of the 1950’s, that advertising works by teaching people about a brand through constant repetition, was replaced by a new model called Recency, or closeness in time.

The Recency model accepts that repetition builds brand familiarity, but says advertising actually helps to make the sale by reminding people of brands, when they are ready to buy.


windowOur new thinking is that getting the advertising message close to the purchase is key. It’s as if there are windows of opportunity in front of each purchase. Advertising’s job is to influence which brand is purchased, and media’s job is to put that brand’s message in the window.

This change in advertising strategy reflected a change in consumer behavior. Today most people are familiar with multiple brands, and many switch between them from purchase-to-purchase. It’s a fact most brand decisions are made at the store, so reminding consumers of the specific brand when they are there is important.

boxpeopleTHE EMPTY BOX

In the US, advertising doesn’t tell people they should buy Kleenex, the empty box does that.

Each day, for some reason independent of the advertising, people are in the market for products of all kinds, and advertising’s selling effect is on that small group of ready-to-buy consumers.

The advertising planning problem is we don’t know which consumers are ready-to-buy so we don’t know when to send them a message. Instead we use mass media to reach potential purchasers over as many weeks as the budget will allow and let probability do our targeting.

But today there’s an advertising medium that lets us target people who are ready-to-buy. It’s advertising at the stores where the purchases are made.


If we think about what Recency says, the real media target isn’t consumers, it’s their purchases. And at-the-Store advertising is obviously the most cost-effective way to reach those purchases. It is the no waste, on-the-spot Recency medium.

Thirty years ago, Herbert Krugman, head of marketing research at General Electric and in many ways the father of media planning, argued against the on-off flights of heavy TV advertising then popular. He suggested instead, advertising needed a more constant presence, because you never knew when the consumer was ready to buy.

Advertising that’s continuously there for the ready consumer describes at-the-store advertising. And Herb, always ahead of his time, was right again.