A few years ago at a conference, I had the privilege of meeting media-planning expert Erwin Ephron. During our brief conversation, Mr. Ephron introduced me to the concept of “recency” in advertising, and his belief that it was more important than accepted goals of reach and frequency in media.

I’ve never forgotten that conversation, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately in terms of shelf edge marketing, and how mobile has added a dimension to the shelf edge that wasn’t available five years ago.

Recency theory, simply stated, is the concept that the most effective advertising communication the customer sees is the last one prior to purchase, and the closer that communication is to the purchase behavior, the better. There are more than a few supporting points to this theory—think about the fact that no political ads can be placed within a predefined distance from a polling place.

Shelf edge communication has depended on this concept for years; putting advertising at the shelf is not new. But in the past 20 years many retailers have leased out their shelves and allowed the highest bidder to put advertising there that may or may not have supported the retailer’s overall brand message or goals.

The good news is that more and more retailers are seeing the value in using the shelf edge to communicate with their shoppers and taking control back. The growing impact of mobile is helping; adding a QR code to the shelf edge to provide more information to the shopper at the critical point of decision brings the idea of recency to a whole new level.

As shoppers become more comfortable with Bluetooth, and as more phones come equipped with near-field communications, the possibilities for reaching them while in the store become ever more interesting.

I don’t know what Mr. Ephron’s take is on mobile as an advertising medium, or if he supports the idea of using the shelf edge as the ultimate in recency. But if you buy into his overall premise—that more recent is more effective—then using the shelf edge would seem to be the best place to put advertising dollars.

I’m not a believer in “silver bullets” when it comes to advertising. There is no single answer that trumps all others. But the shelf edge cries out to be utilized for shopper communication, and while it may not be a silver bullet, it’s as close as we’re likely to come. No other medium delivers the way the shelf edge does, and as mobile use grows, things are only going to get more interesting. For retailers who still see the shelf edge as just the place to hang a price tag, the world has changed and it’s time to get more “recent.”

Author: Jeff Weidauer is vice president of marketing for Vestcom International Inc., a Little Rock, Ark.-based provider of integrated shopper marketing solutions. He can be reached at jweidauer_at_ vestcom.com or visit Vestcom.

This post originally appeared on The Shelf Edge and has been reposted with permission.