The Radio Advertiser's Toughest Choice: Reach vs. Frequency
The most common questions new radio advertisers ask are
- How many commercials should I buy?
- How many different stations should I advertise on?
- Which times of day should I advertise?
The answers to all of these questions stem from the first and the toughest choice an advertiser has to make: "DO I WANT TO TALK TO A LOT OF PEOPLE" or "DO I WANT TO TALK TO PEOPLE A LOT." Professional media buyers call this Reach vs. Frequency and they know, you can't do both. Simply put:
Reach is the number of different people who hear a radio commercial. So when an advertiser wants to talk to a lot of people, then they need to maximize reach.
Frequency is the number of times, on average, that a person will hear a radio commercial. So when an advertiser wants to talk to people a lot, then they need to maximize frequency.
I won't bore you with the calculus, but there is an inverse relationship between Reach and Frequency: the more people a radio commercial talks to (Reach) means the fewer times each person will hear the commercial (Frequency). Of course, the converse also applies, the more times each person hears the commercial, then the fewer people will be reached.
Which Should I Choose?
According to The Small Business Guide To Effective Radio Advertising, there are only two types of marketing objectives an advertising can have:
Branding is when the advertiser wants the target consumer to believe something about a product or service. An example of a branding objective could be: Get working mothers to believe that my daycare service is the safest place in town to entrust their children. Generally, branding requires frequency or talking to people a lot. Think of it this way, if you were happy with your child's current daycare but its competitor wanted you to believe they were thebetter option for your child. How many times would you have to hear the competitor's message before you would consider changing? Obviously, you would have to hear it a lot.
Promotion is when the advertiser wants the target consumer to take specific action. An example of a promotion objective could be: Get people who maintain their own cars to buy 3 quarts of motor oil at my store this weekend. Generally, promotion requires reach or talking to a lot of people. Think of it this way: suppose you were having a party and wanted 100 people to attend. You would probably need to invite 120 people since some of them will be out-of-town, have other plans, or will cancel at the last minute. Promotional advertising is similar, if the advertiser wants to sell motor oil this weekend to do-it-yourselfers, he will have to ask a lot of people since some DIYers may be out of town, have other plans, or just bought oil last week.
How To Build Reach On Radio
Based on the way consumers use radio, there are four key strategies that can be mixed-and-matched for building reach:
- Advertise over a longer period of time
- Advertise during multiple times of day
- Utilize multiple radio stations
- Take advantage of reduced pricing for short-duration commercials (:10-seconds or :15-seconds) to fulfill strategies 1-3
How To Build Frequency On Radio
Based on the way consumers use radio, there are three key strategies that can be mixed-and-matched for building frequency:
- Advertise in short bursts
- Concentrate advertising into narrow times of day
- Utilize a minimum number of radio stations
A commonly repeated myth about frequency is that to be effective, a commercial needs to be heard at least three times. This myth is busted in our recent blog post Radio Advertising: 5 Things You Know That Ain't So. When it comes to frequency there is not an optimal number, but more is always better.
Once the tough choice is made and an advertiser has decided between reach or frequency, a reputable radio account executive has tools to ensure the goals are achieved. We recommend, specifically, the reach and frequency calculator provided by Media Audit. This tool not only computes how many people will hear a commercial and how often, it can also determine the consumer buying habits and demographics of the people reached by a campaign.