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Advertising Takes Time

Imagine you have just arranged a first date with someone. You’re eager to get out of the house, eat some good food at a nice restaurant, and, of course, get to know someone new. You really don’t have high expectations, but you’ll give it a shot and hope for the best. You get to the restaurant, and your date is already there. “Don’t worry,” they say, “I already ordered you a drink. And appetizers. Wanna get married?”

That is, to say the least, moving a little too fast! You don’t know anything about them, their likes and dislikes, the quirks that you’ll find endearing and the quirks that will annoy you, whether they put the dish sponge back in the cup or leave it in the sink. Maybe they’re the perfect match. Maybe they’re a nightmare. It’s too soon to tell. What are they thinking, proposing before you even sit down for the first date?

This is a bit unreasonable, isn’t it? Expecting to see immediate results from advertising is just as ‘out there’. Good advertising doesn’t produce results overnight. It takes repetition, refinement, and patience to penetrate awareness and leave a lasting impression sufficient to motivate a call or a purchase.


Repetition serves to make the unfamiliar familiar. Just as with our first date analogy, it takes time for potential customers to get to know you. They’re not going to settle for the first product they see, and will likely choose a more familiar brand over a less familiar one—even in B2B.

The first time someone sees an ad, it might fly by unnoticed. The second time, it might capture their attention: “I’ve seen this before…” The third, it might pique interest: “What is this company about? I keep seeing their ads.” The fourth time, they might finally click to learn more or seek out the business another way.

There’s an old concept in advertising called the “Rule of 7”: someone has to see an ad seven times before they decide to buy. While this might not be exactly accurate in the digital age, there is a kernel of truth there: you can’t just put an ad out once and expect to see a return. You have to get your message out there again and again, building familiarity with potential customers.


Repetition only works for so long. It takes a while for a viewer to become familiar with an ad, and the business or product being advertised, but if they start seeing it too much, repetition begins to have an adverse effect. If you were watching TV in the US in the early 2000s, you might remember the commercial for headache reliever HeadOn: “HeadOn, apply directly to the forehead. HeadOn, apply directly to the forehead. HeadOn, apply directly to the forehead.” That was the entirety of the ad. Accompanied by an image of a person doing exactly that, it certainly made an impression. At first, it was effective at getting an audience unfamiliar with a new product to understand what the product was for and what it did. But after the thousandth time hearing “HeadOn, apply directly to the forehead,” it starts to grate. You don’t want to have anything to do with HeadOn.

So what did they do? They produced a new commercial featuring customer testimonials: “I hate your commercial but I love your product,” said one. “Your commercial is annoying but your product is amazing,” said another. They refined the message, recognizing in a humorous way that they had perhaps taken the advertising principle of repetition a bit too far.

It is unfortunate that as soon as an ad starts seeing returns, it’s probably time to refine the ad to keep it fresh, but that’s just the life cycle of digital advertising. Repeat your message until it sticks, refine the message so it stays fresh and doesn’t start to annoy people. And above all, remain patient throughout the process.


When a previously successful campaign starts falling off, it might be time for refinement rather than pumping more money into the campaign to keep it going. If your initial campaign isn’t immediately successful, though, you could find yourself tempted to pull the plug immediately. Don’t do it! The reality is that it might take a few months before you can really know if an ad was successful or not. If it turns out it’s not, try tweaking the image and the message until you find something that gets the clicks. It’s a lot of work at first, but once you get the hang of it, you start to understand what kinds of images and messages resonate with the kinds of customers you want, and every new ad campaign gets easier and easier.