Turn off your ads and measure again. Flighting campaign strategies are real.

There are many reasons to schedule your advertising campaigns. First, you want to make sure you use consistent messaging across all channels to grow top of mind awareness. I mean, it is easier for people to remember something they see more than once. Keeping things consistent helps make those cognitive connections easier to make.

Scheduling ad campaigns is also important for the creative team. It’s tricky to balance the time requirements of market research with creative development because you want the most recent data to guide the creative. By scheduling campaigns you can take advantage of known data points like seasonality and holidays. You can set deadlines in advance and allocate time effectively.

Regardless of what your advertising agency might be telling you, there is some value to not running any advertising at all. The biggest takeaway from a plan to put all ads on hiatus is that it can reveal how effective your ads actually are by providing a baseline. When you turn off your advertising, how much effect can you measure? Often called a flighting media schedule running ads intermittently can help you save costs and focus your ad spend where it counts.

Intuitively we often run ads continuously because we attribute the most value of an ad to the last click (or view) prior to when a consumer makes a decision and diminish that value over time. When we watch a hockey game, it’s the last goal which wins the game, not the first.  In business school, we are tight that any pause in promotional activity will lead to a pause in sales. This makes sense and is explained well by Baddeley in The Recency Effect1 - the recency of an ad impression increases an ads effect. Or taken the other way the longer you don’t run ads, the more people will forget about you.

It is easy to comprehend that some businesseses don’t need to run ads all the time. It would be strange to see a lawn mowing promotion in the middle of January. In these cases, continuous advertising does not make sense.

Advertising is digital. We have harnessed consumer data really well and most businesses do a pretty good job of timing their ads correctly with the right message at the right time. Google, Facebook, and Microsoft all sell ad placements in an auction format using a formula to maximize overall clicks (or engagement) with every ad shown. They don’t make money when the advertising doesn’t work because advertisers only pay when they get clicked. We tend to think that modern bidding strategies that “maximize return” using machine learning will do just that, but we need to consider the context.

These same platforms will sell ad placement to the highest bidder. By competing continuously in the auctions you drive up the costs for the placements that matter most to you.

If you think this is interesting or if you want to learn more about what my observations have been when putting my ads on hiatus the comment and leave feedback.

If you are curious about the effectiveness of your ads, try turning them off. See how long it takes you to notice.

1 Baddeley, A. D., & Hitch, G. (1993). The recency effect: Implicit learning with explicit retrieval? Memory & Cognition, 21(2), 146–155. doi:10.3758/bf03202726