Reach and frequency are common terms in the advertising world. However, they mean different things. Their definition also varies when talking about radio and digital ads. Since both of these ads are critical for broadcast companies, explaining these differences is vital when chatting with advertisers.

Reach and Frequency: Digital Ads

With digital advertising, reach is the possible number of people who may see an ad. With digital tactics, you define a target audience, providing a potential reach. The more exact the targeting, the smaller the reach. You’ll know more precisely what the reach is in some channels, such as with email marketing or mobile messaging. When you create audiences for social media ads, you also see an estimated reach based on attributes.

Frequency in digital advertising is the number of times an individual could be served a digital ad. You can “cap” frequency to limit the number of times a consumer may see the ad in some channels. Google Ad Manager allows this, as does most programmatic advertising.

So, should you cap ads? Is there a perfect number of times that prompts better recall or action? There’s no magic number. A study by Nielsen found that the optimal frequency range is five to seven times, increasing resonance by 51% on average.

Setting caps depends on several things, including reach. The type of ad also matters. Promotional ads are more urgent and time-sensitive, so you may ramp the frequency up. They’ll be shorter campaigns, too. Brand awareness ads are long-term, so fewer viewings could be more effective.

Reach vs. Frequency: What’s More Important for Digital Advertising?

The answer on what to prioritize with advertisers depends. The more niche and specific the audience is, the more you should focus on frequency. The content is very specific, so reach is less important.

Frequency is also the preferred approach if the target audience is ready to buy. In this case, the ad tactic is targeting people in the decision stage of the buyer’s journey, so ramping up exposure can get those customers to choose your advertiser.

Reach takes the lead when you have a broad audience, longer campaigns and tactics with brand messages versus specific promotions. It’s also best to emphasize reach for new companies or those just beginning to advertise in digital channels.

Reach and Frequency: Radio Ads

Reach for radio spots is the number of unique people who hear the ad. Determining reach starts with the coverage area for that market. Further, you also know the ratings for your programs. Reach for a radio day will depend on the ratings of the program or daypart.

Radio is a favorite advertising medium because of its broad reach. AM/FM radio accounts for 76% of the daily audio time for ad-supported platforms. It’s the top channel for audio listeners, outperforming subscriptions, podcasts and streaming. It wins no matter the location — at home or in the car.

Frequency in radio is something much more controllable compared to digital. Your advertisers have to purchase each spot across multiple programs and days. They can also vary placements in high-demand peak times like mornings or afternoons and lower-demand times like late evening.

Reach vs. Frequency: What’s More Important for Radio Spots?

Before considering reach and frequency, you’ll be glad to share that radio is a deeply trusted medium with advertisers. Therefore, people tune in more to radio ads. A recent study of radio listeners revealed that 55% listen to commercials more often on radio than on other mediums.

So, you’re already starting with a more attentive audience! For advertisers trying to create brand awareness, reach and frequency matter. You can recommend reach beyond one station if the demographics align. Frequency will again be more critical for timebound promotions. Be careful not to dilute messaging with a too-frequent ad, as that can create negative sentiment.

Reach and Frequency: Both Are Important for Radio and Digital

In discussing reach and frequency with your advertisers, use these simple explanations. Depending on their goals and budget, you may lean on one versus the other. Don’t forget to recommend a multimedia campaign that includes linear and digital tactics. Radio ads lift digital ad tactics, so your advertisers can see greater ROAS (return on ad spend) when using them together.

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