If you’ve ever worked in advertising, you’ve probably heard the words “reach” and “frequency” often. Reach and frequency are both essential to a successful advertising and marketing campaign, no matter the medium. But what do those words really mean and are they interchangeable? To answer the latter question: no, these are not interchangeable.
Reach refers to the number of people (or households) that are exposed to a given medium at a given point in time; this number is usually an estimation. An example would be the number of people that hear a commercial on the radio or view an ad on television. So, when planning a campaign, the media buyer or planner calculates the potential number of people that will hear or see an ad. Frequency is the number of times an individual is likely to be exposed to an ad during a marketing campaign. Increasing the frequency of exposure to an ad will also increase the likelihood that an individual is engaging with the ad, therefore enhancing the probability that they will interact with a brand or business.
Maximizing both reach and frequency throughout an advertising campaign can be an excellent way of securing new customers, driving traffic to a business’ website, etc. However, most budgets don’t allow buyers to increase both factors. So usually, depending on the budget and client, only one is enhanced. Generally speaking, expanding reach increases the spending capacity for recurring ads, but increasing frequency puts limitations on money spent on reach. With these limitations in mind, marketing specialists and media planners must be able to figure out which would be more important. You should put more focus on frequency if you have a niche audience and your target market is ready to buy; it should be a priority when you already know your target and are trying to drive sales. You should focus on reach when the goal of your campaign is brand awareness when potential customers may not be aware of your business or if you are launching a new product/service.
To conclude, reach and frequency are different, but when put together, you have a detailed view of buyer interest, impact and intent.