Crazy Eddie and Reach Vs. Frequency

I guarantee that readers from the New York tri-state area will remember these commercials with near-total recall.  Crazy Eddie was a consumer electronics chain that operated in the greater New York area in the 70s and 80s. And before they went out of business (due to massive and multiple counts of fraud by the owners), their biggest claim to fame was the renowned Crazy Eddie TV commercials, which featured New York DJ Jerry Carroll as their spokesman, frantically shouting about Crazy Eddie’s low prices on color TVs, stereos, and so on.  The spots always ended with the same slogan, which, if you’re from the area, I’m sure you know:

“Crazy Eddie! His prices are INSAAAANNNE!”

The spots weren’t knock-yer-socks-off creative. They certainly weren’t pretty to look at.  So, why, then, even after more than 25 years, are these commercials remembered so vividly? Why can pretty much everyone from the area remember “INSAAAANE!” as soon as you mention “Crazy Eddie?” Because the commercials aired and aired and aired. Radio, TV, cable… for years. They used a consistent and memorable format for their ads, so that slogan and that brand became emblazoned in the minds of whomever saw/heard them. And that’s why, years later, I can still recite the “ten great locations” with pinpoint timing and accuracy:  As long as they were open for business, they never, ever stopped reminding people that they were open for business.

That’s the difference between reach and frequency. With reach, you’ll get “a lot of eyeballs,” as they say — a lot of people, potentially, will see your ad each time it airs. Frequency, however, refers to how often your commercial airs. Ideally, you want both. You want to reach a lot of customers a lot of times. However, only businesses with mammoth ad budgets can generally afford to advertise on such a grand scale. Most local businesses, by comparison, have limited budgets, so they have to choose between running an ad during a widely-viewed program (high reach), like the Super Bowl, or the finale of American Idol, which may cost several thousand dollars (Locally, of course. Nationally, it’s millions) for a single commercial, or running several ads throughout the week (high frequency), during lesser-viewed shows, but at a significantly lower spot rate. That is, fewer people may see your commercial each time it airs, but it will air more times.

Okay, so, if you have to choose between reach and frequency, which do you choose? If it were my business, and my ad budget, I’d take frequency every time. People learn by repetition. Think about your times-tables when you were a kid: You learned them by repeating, and repeating, and repeating them: “6 x 5 = 30… 6 x 6 = 36… 6 x 7 = 42…” You remember stuff by seeing it and hearing it over and over and over. Now, apply that notion to your business’ advertising campaign. Will a customer remember your business by seeing your ad once during Survivor: Detroit, or by seeing it every day on TV during the local morning news, and then twice more on the radio during their commute to work, and then once on the way home, and then later that evening while watching Pawn Stars on the History Channel?

Looking back at the Crazy Eddie example, I mentioned that they never stopped reminding people they were there. Neither should you with your business. Of course, the reality is that not every business has a budget big enough to advertise all the time. But that should be a goal to shoot for. If you can’t advertise all the time, at least try to advertise as often as your budget allows. The more times your ad is seen, the better your customers will remember you when they need your product or service. Give them as little chance as possible to forget you.

To do otherwise would be INSAAAANNNE!

2 Responses to Crazy Eddie and Reach Vs. Frequency

  1. Great comments Brett. I’ll frequency over one-time eyeballs every time.

    This makes me think of the Super Bowl ad phenomenon where the ad might be memorable, but did it actually convince you to do business there? I think I was on my third or fourth Super Bowl before I realized that was a domain name management service. I remember the spots (for obvious reasons) but had no idea what they did.

    Your next post, perhaps? Should your advertising be JUST memorable? Or should it also tell the viewer what you, ya know, actually DO?


  2. I think advertising during the Super Bowl is a poor value for that reason: You may run great creative, you may get millions of viewers seeing your spot, but if revenue doesn’t increase as a result, then did the ad do its job?

    Thanks for the comment – And I absolutely will do a post soon about message content…