Too Much of A Good Thing

April 2 2013
Charles Wagner
Charles Wagner

Most people understand the old adage all too well. Too much of a good thing can hurt you. We’ve all been there. Lying in the sun at the beach too long can get you burned, exercising too much can do more harm than good, and eating too much rich food can make you pack on the pounds.

But even with all of that life experience to draw on, people seldom think about applying the same logic to their marketing budget – in particular, to purchasing the right amount of commercial time to achieve their goal.

Around President’s Day this year, all of the car dealers and major brands were having sales and promoting the heck out of them, as they always do. They ran many commercials, all saying roughly the same thing in the same way. But the one I remember most was the one sponsored by “Your Mid-Atlantic Ford Dealers.” A lively Cajun-inspired tune, just a man and his guitar singing about the President’s Day sale “at your local Ford dealer.” A stop-action video of an engaging young man wearing a pork-pie hat and holding up hand-drawn cards that roughly corresponded to the words in the song, standing in front of video footage of Ford cars and dealerships. The music and the style of the commercial initially held my attention and delivered its message. Since it stood out from all the other commercials about President’s Day sales, I would have considered the campaign to be a success.

If they hadn’t run it into the ground. 

I said I remembered that ad. I didn’t say I remembered it fondly. It ran over and over, at least once an hour every hour, and it ran EVERYWHERE. You couldn’t escape it. It would pop up on every channel, and at any time of the day or night. Sometimes they ran the same thirty-second commercial twice to fill a sixty-second slot. During an hour-long show, the commercial would air 6 or 8 times.  My kids would roll their eyes and groan, and my wife started throwing things at the set every time it came on.  

Over time, I began to see the smile on the man holding the cards as something other than friendly. He almost seemed to be mocking me, because he knew I could not escape. Wherever I went, whatever I watched, the commercial would follow, and remind me of the sale whether I needed to be reminded or not.

And it wasn’t just my family that was feeling this way. To see just how hated this campaign became, just do a Google search on “President’s Day event at your local Ford dealer.” There was even a Facebook page called “100,000 Begging Ford to Stop the "Local Ford Dealer" Commercial.”

The Mid-Atlantic Ford Dealers had money to burn, and they burned it – along with any goodwill TV viewers in this area may have had towards the Ford Motor Company. By the time the President’s Day sale event was over, you couldn’t give me a Ford, let alone convince me to buy one. The Mid-Atlantic Ford Dealers took an engaging little ad and turned it into an annoyance that would not go away. They spent way too much money and ended up doing the exact opposite of what they wanted to do. They wound up turning the buyers they were targeting against the very company they were trying to promote, because they didn’t understand how easy it is to cross the fine line between just enough exposure and way too much.

Like giving someone too much to drink, running the same commercial over and over won’t make potential customers like you any better. It will just make them sick … of you. 

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