Here's Why You See The Same Commercials Over and Over (and Over) Again During Sports Playoffs

Count me among the sports TV viewers who consider themselves annoyed with having to watch the same commercials repeatedly during sports playoff runs. First, it was the Taco Bell spot during the NCAA Tournament with the hipsters driving across the country for a taco. Now, it’s Andre Dawson in the ivy for State Farm and the kid playing “Axel F” on his tuba for some cell phone.

Many have wondered aloud and online why major advertisers will run the same commercial spot so many times to what seems like the same audience. We decided to ask two of our favorite advertising professionals, with whom we collaborate on client projects, to give us some answers.

Here’s some perspective from George Piliouras , who as a big ad agency Executive Creative Director orchestrated the once-ubiquitous “Ford Truck Man” TV commercials. He said, “The rationalization is that in a media cluttered landscape loaded with quick-cuts, playbacks, other commercials- all have the goal of getting our attention. Having the same spot running consistently is a thread of continuity which is a good thing. The fact that it’s remembered,even perceiving it to be an annoyance, proves that repeating the same commercial worked. It got someone’s attention which ultimately is the goal of an advertiser. Cost to produce numerous ads can sometimes be a factor, but usually, it’s a deliberate strategy to have the same one.”

Mark Young, the Chairman of Jekyll & Hyde Advertising , a firm that creates and places much national advertising, explained that it’s really about numbers. “We know that we need 3.7 impressions before a viewer will really “get” the message. We also know that you can deliver up to 15 impressions with continuing good results. Once the viewer has seen it 15 times it ceases to be effective. I am sure that they are calculating that they are under the 15 impressions model. Some viewers will see it more, some less.”

Piliouras added that we, as consumers, now expect to be entertained by advertising. But that isn’t always the best way for a brand to hammer home an impression. “We get conditioned and a bit spoiled for the variety of entertainment in message. Compare that rub with one spot running continually through the clutter and it’s no surprise that some find it boring. Ultimately, the goal of the ad is to engage your targeted audience and make them remember you and your message.”

So hard core baseball fans may be sick of the commercials we’ll see in the World Series. But, two of the ad pros we trust the most say that, fundamentally, the big advertisers know what they’re doing.