How to use reach and frequency?


First, use them to determine if the media plan can achieve the goals of your strategy.


If your advertising objective is to get 50 percent of homes to be aware of your product or to try it, it can’t be done if your reach is less than 50 percent.


Second, recognize that reach and frequency are interrelated. As reach goes up, frequency comes down. You can’t have both unless you add more money or go to a different media plan. Determine the best balance for your objectives.


The relationship between reach, frequency and rating points is expressed in this formula:

R x F = GRP

If your plan delivers a 90 reach and a 4 frequency, the total GRPs in a four-week period will be 360, or 90 per week.


Finally, be aware that the same words in different contexts can mean different things. A medium that reaches young people or the frequency of newspaper advertisements in a schedule is not the same consumer exposure concept expressed in reach and frequency figures.

Two keys to success: frequency and continuity

People’s memories are short. That was the finding of a German psychologist, Hermann Ebbonghaus, in 1885. What Professor Ebbinghaus learned was:


  • People forget 60 percent of what they learn within a half-day.
  • The more repetition, the better retention.
  • Forgetting is rapid immediately after learning, and then levels off.


These facts are fundamental to two media issues: first, the relative importance of frequency versus reach: second, the value of continuous advertising.

People forget quickly.

Advertisers who seek to reach a broad audience at the expense of sufficient frequency among key prospects risk wasting all their advertising.

If your product is one that people are always in the market for-soap or toothpaste-the need for “reminder” advertising is obvious. But frequency is just as important for products purchased only occasionally-cars, headache remedies. The message must be there when people are ready to purchase.

Repetition aids retention.

Most of the great advertising success stories are ones of frequency. Even low-spending brands usually succeed by concentrating messages against a select audience.


Don’t aim for a broad target with a small budget. Better to reduce the reach objective and aim for a smaller audience-with sufficient frequency to be effective. This may mean advertising in fewer markets, advertising some products but not others, or advertising only in vehicles that reach a precisely defined group of people.


Your message needs continuity as well as frequency, it it’s to be remembered. If money were no consideration, plans would all call for continuous advertising for 52 weeks at high levels.


Since that isn’t practical, compromises must be made between effective levels and budgets.

One is flighting, the concentration of advertising into bursts, with a hiatus (no advertising) in between. The theory is that it is better to be in at meaningful levels for brief periods, four 4-week flights for example, than to go to lower weekly levels for longer periods of time. (Flights can also be used to support promotions or to concentrate funds in key buying seasons.)


The best of both worlds may be pulsing-continuous advertising plus periodic bursts-to recognize seasonality, promotions and similar considerations.


Each product’s need for frequency depends on its purchase cycle, its stage of development, competition, and the advertising copy.


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