Subscribe to industry newsletters

Advertise on Bizcommunity

Manufacturing Indaba 2018

When do ads start irritating?

Brand loyalty is often inherited - handed down from father to son and mother to daughter, but... Here's a case of a daughter who for decades has been loyal to Harpic - something she learnt from her mother who, like all mothers, liked to have a sparkling clean lavatory pan with no germs within 100km.
But this weekend, my normally calm and collected sister told me that she would never again buy Harpic and had switched to Toilet Duck.

Loving your lav

The reason was that she watches a soapie on SABC3 every day and at every commercial break, there is a commercial for Harpic. At first, she actually loved it and revelled in the fact that it was all about one of her preferred brands.

But after a while, the sheer intensity with which the ad was flighted day in and day out started getting her mildly irritated, then very irritated, then annoyed to the point of walking away from her favourite brand.

Now, I have no idea whether my sister's reaction was representative of a tiny minority of viewers or lots of them.


I am the same in a way, because I have noticed a trend where advertisers will buy into a popular series and then dominate the opening and closing billboards to the programme and each commercial break as well as liberally lace those commercial breaks with the same ad.

I have to admit to finding it increasingly boring, in spite of the fact that I am zapping through the ad breaks thanks to my PVR.

Now, the only reason why I am extremely hesitant about leaping to the conclusion that because my sister and I become irritated with this endless repetition everybody does, is that many years ago I had a long hard look at the infomercials. Those ads everybody says they hate.

I discovered through hard factual evidence that the reason infomercials were a lot longer than the usual TV commercials and also incredibly repetitive, was simply because that was what the advertisers had to do to get viewers to react. To get viewers to actually absorb the message.

I also know that frequency and repetition are two critically important components of all advertising.

Overkill may be good

Add to that the fact that getting the attention of the consumer these days has become increasingly difficult and it might well be that what might appear to be repetitive overkill is actually what is needed to get a message to sink in these days.

The problem of course, is that it is extremely difficult to research consumer reaction in cases like this. The lie factor is generally so big that it tends to negate the validity of the data.

I believe that this conundrum is an example of just how difficult things are in the advertising industry these days. With massive competition for consumer attention, frequency is critical but overdoing it might come at a price.

I would love to look at the comparative sales stats from the Harpics of this world to try to get an idea of where the line should be drawn in the sand.

About Chris Moerdyk

Apart from being a corporate marketing analyst, advisor and media commentator, Chris Moerdyk is a former chairman of Bizcommunity. He was head of strategic planning and public affairs for BMW South Africa and spent 16 years in the creative and client service departments of ad agencies, ending up as resident director of Lindsay Smithers-FCB in KwaZulu-Natal. Email Chris on and follow him on Twitter at @chrismoerdyk.
Vanessa du plessis
Tell your sister I too was about to call Harpic and suggest they shove it, loo and all. That soapie is meant to be my soporific time, blank spaced out time to divide thinking time from serious funtime... "Like sands through the hourglass..." up pops "Its harpic clean!!" It's harpic clean!***###^^^ it's not clean until its : HARPIC CLEAN!!!!! and the fat lady in the back screams It's not clean!!!! It's HARPIC CLEANNNNNN!!!! ululations and fists flying its a battle with the pvr to catch the fastforward button before the fat lady wants to sing about harpic again... and I lose every time. Never again will anything I own be Harpic clean..The horror. The horror....
Posted on 18 Feb 2013 14:45
Stevie Godson
If an ad irritates me - especially if it inuslts my intelligence - I remember it. I remember to boycott the product forever, that is.
Posted on 18 Feb 2013 15:19
mike broom
The key word Chris used was 'irritate'. Irritation, by definition is driven by repetition. While Stevie is referring to insulting on'e intelligence - which can be done with a single exposure.The important thing is that market research can (and probably does) send most of the II (Intelligence Insulting) ads down & round the bend. But not enough research monitors the effectiveness of ads, quickly, inexpensively. Day After Recall is a widely accepted measure of advertising effectiveness - but it's a blunderbuss being used for eye surgery. What can be done inexpensively & quickly is recruit panellists who watch a particular programme, find out what their brand propensity is and - very important - whether they like advertising in general and by category. Research like this would help explain 'irritation' by highlighting the inappropriateness of the category for the market, as well as the gains & losses from repetition.
Posted on 18 Feb 2013 16:02
Gordon Hall
Are we really considered too thick to remember?Is the current batch of Harpic intended only for the lowest common denominator?The Americans call it "reinforcement" - the rest of us call it overkill.
Posted on 18 Feb 2013 18:18
Nomfundo Maseko
The repetition of the same story lines, jingle gets irritating and the fact that some brand messages dont really target their market well.I believe in order for an ad to best reach its audience it needs to keep up with current meia,economic and social situations affecting its consumers in order to remain relevantAnd lastly, I dont want to be bombarded every 5 minutes with the same ad at every commercial break, the mind just switches off and so I switch off to the next channel.
Posted on 19 Feb 2013 12:38
Barbara George
Another example of an irritating ad campaign was FNBs Steve, and I think FNB also came to realise that too. In my opinion, a brand that appreciate our dynamic thinking as consumers is Nandos. Nandos never rides on an ad for too long, and that's a strategy that gets us as the media consumers talking. But when a brand feeds us the same message for too, it becomes easy for the consumer to become oblivious to it.The introduction of PVR in South Africa has also made it important for brands to make their communication not just informative, but also entertaining. We are a digital generation that has the power of choice and the PVR is an example of how we exercise our media consumption choices. Essentially, what marketers must remember is that today's consumers hold the power because they are more knowledgeable and more conscious of their media consumption choices.
Posted on 19 Feb 2013 19:14
Mongezi Madlala
I agree that ads can get a tad irritating if they are aired too much. Some companies should remember that its the quality of the brand that keeps consumers loyal. An example is Bently, we never see any adverts about the car but the value of the brand is known worldwide. An advertisement can be aired a million times but if consumers do not like the brand then its market share will not change in any way, it may in fact decrease.
Posted on 20 Feb 2013 19:52
Rob Watson
Insurance ads are the most irritating and generally insult ones intelligence especially the animated ones. My insurance is with a company that never advertises and give excellent service and premiums. My impression is that insurance advertising is a billion Rand industry, paid by who? The consumer of course and then get BS about cost increases. Our premiums also pay for traffic and other services, subsidising city councils.Advertisers are 50 years behind and need to get into the real world of consumer intelligence.
Posted on 21 Feb 2013 12:14