Advertising is theoretically simple, or at least it is according to old school marketing principles. You craft a message and then you send it out to as many people as you can, as often as you can. The end result (again theoretically) is increased sales.

What happens when that message is actually an annoying one? I’m not talking about an advert that’s merely ordinary, wishy-washy or forgettable but rather one that really grates on people. What kind of an effect can this have on a brand and on the all-important sales that the ad is meant to drive in the first place?

I’ve mentioned the current State Insurance radio advert in my blogs a couple of times so far. Some might think I have a problem with State Insurance as a company to be so negative about its ad campaign. Not so! I’ve been a happy State customer for many years. Just yesterday, I called up to arrange some changes to my contents policy and the service was as good as it's always been. 

Allow me to use that call to make a point. I was on hold for a short time while the cover was being arranged, and the music on hold turned out to be classic Tears for Fears, a song I used to really enjoy and haven’t heard in ages. I was actually having some fun being on hold, just listening to the track and letting the memories flood back. Now take that same song, get some singers to re-record it in an extraordinarily cheesy way for an advertising campaign and play it back to me over and over until even the opening notes make me want to hurl the radio out the window. I guess I wouldn’t enjoy being on hold to Tears for Fears after a few weeks, let alone months.

That’s how I feel about the “Ain’t nothing gonna break my stride” radio campaign. State is reaching me, that’s for sure and it's leveraging frequency in a big way because I can’t escape this advert as long as I continue to listen to the radio. I thought that I might be the only one who felt this way, that I had an unreasonable bugbear about the ad but as they say, t’aint so. 

The more I ask around, the more I hear how people dislike the radio campaign. The TV campaign doesn’t inspire as much ire, although it’s seen by some as being as cheesy as the large cheese platter at a fancy restaurant, but asking about the radio ad provokes some epic reactions ranging from scrunched up faces to vomiting motions. A friend of mine works at a catering company and she reckons that when the ad comes up on the radio in their big industrial kitchen, the entire staff complement cringes. 

This can’t be a good thing. The campaign is meant to focus “on State's customers and shows how comfortable they are in the knowledge that State will get them back up and running with a minimum of fuss.” Yeah I get that from the TVC but it strikes me that when it’s stripped of the visuals, the radio advert does little to convey this message in the first place, and when it’s run as relentlessly as it is, it does nothing for State except to generate and reinforce negative sentiment.

Now I’m not going to stop being a State customer just because this ad is annoying interruption marketing epitomised but if I was in the market for insurance, would I be fired up to call the company? I suspect not. I’d probably try a couple of others first instead of “that bothersome lot”. How does that translate into increased sales? It doesn’t. Marketers need to remember that reach and frequency can create attraction or repulsion depending on how they're applied. This is especially true in an environment where the recipient of the message may feel trapped - you can't rush over to the work radio and change the station all day long...