Why Rotators Are Not Your Friend

The most expensive ads you can buy are the cheap ones that don’t work.

advertising is like hammering a nail into a board

Photo courtesy of BillionPhotos.com/dpc

I often meet with business owners who are new to broadcast advertising. Many times their first experience with radio or TV is with some sort of rotator package.

Often it’s their last experience as well, because the rotators didn’t work.

Rotators are also known as “Run of Schedule”, or ROS. They are commercials that are not guaranteed to run at any particular time — the station decides when they air, from 5 in the morning until 12 midnight, seven days a week. In return for giving the station maximum flexibility to schedule the ads, the client gets a significant discount on the price of each commercial.

The mind of your prospective customer is like a seasoned piece of hardwood. Your message is like a nail. The rhythmic strokes of the hammer represent the number of times your message — your unique selling proposition — is heard by the prospect.

Your goal is to drive the nail through the board and then clench it on the other side. Messages that are clenched are remembered for a lifetime. Tap, tap goes the hammer. But during the night the claw pulls the nail back out of its little hole! The following day you find nothing more than a faint indentation in the board. The nail is no longer in it. Your message is forgotten.

Using the hole you started the previous day, you position the nail again. Tap, tap goes the hammer. But again falls the veil of darkness, eyes close, and the claw does its work once more. Day after day, this scene is repeated; but ever so slowly, the hole gets deeper.”  — Roy Williams, from The Wizard of Ads: Turning Words into Magic and Dreamers into Millionaires

Rotators seem like a terrific way to put your toe in the water and try a medium out — use the whole station, get a huge reach, and save money on the rate.

So why don’t they work?

It goes back to Roy Williams and the hardwood. Let’s say that at the same dollar amount, you have two options

  • 10 commercials in the morning news.
  • Or you could buy 25 rotators. They might run any time Monday through Sunday, 5am until midnight.

In the morning news, you hammer the nail ten times into the same hole.

With the rotator package, you smack the nail twenty-five times, but in between each whack you take the nail out and move it somewhere else on the board.

The first option drives the nail in deeper. Much deeper. Even though each whack costs more money, the return on investment is much better.

“Concentration is the key to all economic success.”Peter Drucker

Rotators can be helpful when added to a concentrated schedule of commercials. By themselves, they’re a drop in the ocean.

Whatever medium you choose, pick frequency over reach.

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