What Is Flighting?

Flighting is an advertising scheduling strategy that alternates between running a normal schedule of advertising and a complete cessation of all runs. Flighting refers to the period when advertising is being run, while the cessation period is known as a hiatus. A company may use a flighting media schedule as a way to save on advertising costs, while relying on the effect of its past advertisements continue to drive sales. As sales slow or more budget becomes available, the company will resume normal advertising.

Key Takeaways

  • Flighting is an advertising scheduling strategy that can be turned on and off to save money and optimize for a product or service's most marketable time windows.
  • Flighted media schedules are often used to promote products that are seasonal, or linked with certain times of day or days of the week.
  • While most common with television advertising, flighting can also be used with Internet and radio advertising.

Understanding Flighting

Flighting as an advertising strategy runs contrary to the widely held belief that any lull in product promotion will slow its sales. Research and conventional wisdom hold that running ads on a continuous schedule is an effective way to compel consumers to buy a product or service. This strategy is consistent with recency theory, which is the belief that advertising is most effective when viewed just prior to when a consumer makes a decision and diminishes over time.

However, the nature of some industries, products, and consumer groups can make such continuous advertising strategies ineffective and wasteful. Marketing companies and advertising agencies utilize internal and paid-for research to formulate the right advertising strategy, one that yields the best results while also expending no more resources than necessary.

Flighting is frequently employed with seasonal products and services to optimize for a product's most marketable time windows. For example, a tax preparation service and a snowplowing company would be squandering their advertising budgets by running their ads in July; they are far more likely to run their ads during the winter months. This is where a flighted media schedule would come into play.

Other than seasonally, a flighted media schedule may be employed based on the day of the week or even the time of day. For example, if a client is most active at lunchtime, then advertisers would be best served by running ads then.

Similarly, if improving click-through rates on online ads is the goal, given that research shows that viewers are far more likely to click on a banner ad the first two times they see it, running it a third time is inadvisable. Such a strategy is known as "frequency control."

The Origin of Flighting

Flighting is most commonly associated with television advertising, but can also be used with other media types, such as radio or the Internet. It rose to prominence along with another strategy, "pulsing," as advertising rates grew faster than advertising budgets. Due to this change, companies were pressed to balance potential customers' ability to recall a product or service with the cost of constantly reaching them. The longer the recall period, the less necessary it may be to run as many advertisements.

Flighting vs. Pulsing

While flighting can be defined as a binary on/off scheduling of ad runs based on seasonality, pulsing involves continuous advertising that also features a number of intermittent, planned spikes in ad runs that are not based on seasonality.