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The fine line between effective and annoying 

Did Arkansas Cash for Gold hit advertising, well, gold?

click to enlarge AWFULLY EFFECTIVE: A hired actor and a rubber chicken.
  • AWFULLY EFFECTIVE: A hired actor and a rubber chicken.

It happens when you least expect it. When you're relaxing on the couch, catching an episode of "Seinfeld" after a long day's work. When you're brushing your teeth in the morning, just before running out the door.

"This is a rubber chicken!"

Before you know it, you're reciting every word in a high-pitched fake rubber chicken voice. It leaps from somewhere deep within you, pouring from your subconscious. "They buy it." "They buy it." "That too." "Yeah, baby!" "They love broken gold!" "They buy it all!"

Considered quirky and fun by some and horrendously annoying by others, the Arkansas Cash for Gold commercial, featuring a rubber chicken that's really excited about old gold, has enjoyed a good run on the local airwaves. Ask anybody in Central Arkansas about the advertisement and, chances are, they've seen it. Not only that, but they can recite the chicken's lines.

That doesn't mean everyone loves it. Jeff Fuller, owner of Arkansas Cash for Gold, says in the two years since it first aired he's received threatening emails and phone calls from people incensed by the advertisement.

"If you saw the emails and the phone calls that we get – if I was a politician, secret service would be knocking on their door tomorrow," Fuller says. "You wouldn't believe how threatening they are. We had one that said, 'Everybody at the TV station should be shot, whoever made the commercial should be shot.' Some people are clearly watching too much TV."

By now, the commercial has definitely hit a saturation point. And that can be good and bad, says Dr. Karen Hood, assistant professor of marketing and advertising at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

"After the first few exposures to a certain message, we tend to like it because we like things that are familiar to us," Hood says. "But after a certain point, the attitudes start to get negative. After you see it a number of times, there's something called the 'wear-out factor.' "

Whether a commercial's message gets into your head is really a matter of how you watch TV. Normally, people aren't just plopped in front of the TV, giving it all of their attention. You're cooking, cleaning or your kids are running around everywhere and it's on in the background. Because this is how most people watch television, repetition is important, Hood says.

"Something that does get into your memory bank is something that's going to be repeated over and over. It does take a lot of repetition for something like that to remain in your memory," she says.

Fuller says he had nothing to do with the creation of the advertisement. He simply hired an advertising agency in Buffalo, N.Y., to do the work. He's been pleased with the results.

The real question that comes up when you analyze any advertisement is whether it leads potential customers to a "purchasing decision." Does it have any real impact on behavior? A lot of that has to do with knowing your audience and what type of product you're selling. Is selling your gold an impulse decision? If it is, repetition and nearly annoying viewers to death might pay off.

"If it's something you do on impulse, then you're going to go with the company that's on top of your mind," Hood says. "It's not like it hypnotizes you and sends you to your closet to rifle through your old jewelry. But if it's an impulse decision, and if you've heard the message a million times, you might say, 'Well, they're crazy, but I know they'll buy my stuff.' "

"As long as people are coming in our door and we ask, 'How did you hear about us?' and they say, 'The commercial,' then it still falls in the effective range. It's a top of the mind thing. You want to be number one in their consciousness when it comes to that business," Fuller says.

TV stations have requested that Fuller change the ad up a bit, to give viewers a break. For the moment, he's gone back to the original ad, which features a young blonde woman instead of the rubber bird. He says new ads are in the works, but it will be hard to top the chicken.

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