Do Your Research: In Advertising, Timing is Everything

Timing is an important part of advertising. A perfect message reaching the perfect audience will be meaningless if the timing is off. An ad for the hottest toy of the Christmas season isn’t going to be as effective on January 5th. Perhaps we might get a few stragglers who still need to send a late gift, but overall we’ve missed the boat. We also risk alienating people who would have wanted to buy it before the holidays. Have you ever bought something only to have it go on sale right afterwards? Frustrations abound.

With the new year comes resolutions. Resolutions tend to revolve around self-improvement – lose weight, exercise more, eat better, etc. If your brand fits into a New Year’s resolution category, you might consider running a special advertising campaign to capitalize on people’s heightened interest. But when should you run this campaign? It sounds like an obvious question with an easy answer – around New Year’s, of course! But the answer isn’t that simple – here’s what you need to consider when running a seasonal or timely advertising campaign.

So what does this have to do with New Year’s resolutions and advertising? A lot. You see, there can be big discrepancies in what people consider the perfect timing for an ad campaign for New Year’s resolutions. Right now, if we were going to run a New Year campaign, what dates would you suggest we run the campaign through? Now, ask your neighbor when they would run a campaign.

Did your dates match your neighbor’s? Did you have our campaign starting January 1, right on the New Year? Or did you have us start December 26, right after Christmas? Perhaps you started it New Year’s Eve. But what sounds logical to you might not match your neighbor’s personal reasoning. This is something that our own team ran into when setting up a New Year’s campaign for a client in the weight loss industry.

We originally hypothesized that people would still consider the week between Christmas and New Year’s a “free” holiday week, and wouldn’t start thinking about New Year’s resolutions until January 1. Then we predicted that interest would hold through the end of the month. Fortunately, we never leave anything to just chance and intuition – we use data to form and guide our strategy. Using Google Trends, we researched when people were truly interested and searching for weight loss resolution solutions. Here’s what we found:

advertising timing

Look at the trend for “New Year Weight Loss” searches, over the last five years. We can see there is a distinct, recurring spike every year. Let’s zoom in on numbers for 2015 to get a more detailed look:

advertising timing

Contrary to our initial thought that the entire month of January was the prime time to reach resolution makers, we can clearly see that while searches are the highest during the first part of January, they actually start to ramp up towards the end of December. On top of that, searches really drop off and normalize about halfway through the month.

Had we not done the research, we would have missed a huge opportunity to reach people in between Christmas and New Year’s, plus we would have thrown money away trying to reach people at the tail end of January, after a majority of interest would have already faded.

Timing is everything. Too early, and no one cares. Too late, and we’ve missed out. If you are considering advertising around a seasonal or timely event, make sure you do your research. Use Google Trends, track social chatter, look at historical data, do what it takes so you know exactly when to run your campaign. You might be missing a huge opportunity!

Angie Goldman
Marketing Analyst


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