Starcom advises to up TV spots, cut buys

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In what could be a boon for commercial production, Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett Co. and other creative shops that work with Starcom Media-Vest Group are planning to increase the number of spots produced for campaigns following the results of a study conducted by the media agency.

The study, called Wearout, tapped into a database of 3,000 respondents and found that viewers' attention to individual commercials wanes after the 10th viewing.

"The industry used to believe that 25 exposures was the limit, but now on average it's 10," said Kate Lynch, Starcom's exec VP-global research director, who conducted the research. As a result of the findings, Ms. Lynch said plans are being written for brand campaigns that call for more ad production, which could double.

`no point'

"There is no point spending an extra half a million dollars on ratings and frequency if people are not going to watch the ad," Ms. Lynch said. "So we might as well make another ad that people will want to watch. The interesting thing is that a media agency has done the work to find out about it. I don't think anyone would believe the findings if a creative agency did it."

Starcom is working closely at the moment with Burnett executives to incorporate recommendations for increased ad production in all campaign plans. The money to produce this will come out of the budget for frequency media buys, Ms. Lynch said. The research project, which began last summer, included 15 product categories such as package goods, financial services, long-term purchases and services. The study did not include automobiles. Starcom's largest single client is General Motors Co.

under consideration

"We showed the results to General Motors and they are interested in finding out more about it," Ms. Lynch said.

Kellogg Co. is taking the data into consideration for planning its next campaigns, according to John Sheehy, Burnett's senior VP-account director on Kellogg/Keebler. "For example, for Special K, we may plan out the year that says given the amount of weight that we're running ads at, in order to drive better efficiencies and effectiveness, let's go ahead and produce more spots," he said. Mr. Sheehy pointed out that money can be saved by piggybacking productions, shooting several different ads at the same time. "Having them shot all at once gives the client flexibility to get ahead, instead of chasing deadlines."

"This study couldn't come along at a better time," said Matt Miller, president-CEO of the Association of Independent Commercial Producers. "It will make people consider the fact that they are wasting airtime, which is much more expensive than the production of commercials."

According to the latest American Association of Advertising Agencies survey, the average cost of producing a 30-second spot was $358,000 in 2001, up 8% from $332,000 in 2000.

The production industry was hit hard by the ad recession, with many advertisers cutting production in half and repurposing old ads to fill media inventory. "Production is on a roller coaster right now," Mr. Miller said. "We are still in the midst of a down economy. At the same time we've been in a down economy long enough that advertisers can't keep holding back new production. You can't just keep running this old stuff over and over again. No one pays attention to it."

Ms. Lynch said the change in plans will not double costs for marketers because money will be shifted over from media buys. "We're not asking clients to spend more. We're asking them to reallocate." She estimates that the cost of producing an ad is equal to the cost of acquiring half a frequency point.

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