Gone are the days of swing-in-the-dark-with-a-dull-blade advertising — in this modern world, marketing strategies are highly refined, surgical operations, sharpened by the power of data sciences.

By assessing vital metrics, we can accurately measure the impact a marketing strategy is likely to have or is having, allowing us to streamline our approach, reach more of our target audience, and, ultimately, stimulate growth and profit.

Yep, there’s no doubt about it – the path to success is paved with metrics, the most important of which (at least in terms of Out-of-Home advertising) are reach and frequency, two intrinsic measurements.

But these metrics aren’t just linked – they’re actually antagonistic, leaving many business owners questioning which should be prioritized to optimize the efficacy of a marketing campaign. So, in this article, we’ll be discussing what these metrics are, how they differ, and how and when you should use them to measure OOH advertising.

reach vs frequency

Reach vs Frequency: Definitions and Differences

We’ve heard both types of metrics probably quite a bit, but would you be able to explain how they differ? Understanding the difference between reach vs frequency is understanding the difference in how you measure the effectiveness of your billboards or out-of-home advertising.

What Is Reach?

Reach refers to the number of people that will potentially be exposed to an aspect of your marketing campaign at least once in a set period of time.

For example, if you pay for one of your ads to be placed on a billboard on a main road, the potential reach of that ad would be at least 1 person per car driving towards the billboard.

Reach can be measured in a number of ways, including…

  • Demographics
  • Census Data
  • Traffic Counts and Vehicle Analytics
  • Daily Effective Circulation
  • Eye Tracking

measuring reach

What Is Frequency?

Frequency, on the other hand, is how many times each person will be exposed to the same marketing aspect of a marketing strategy more than once within a given time frame.

So, borrowing our billboard example from a moment ago, if we assume that the cars driving past from Monday to Friday are commuting to work, that would mean they’re potentially exposed to your ad 5 times a week.

Frequency can be measured by…

  • Estimates —  You can get a very quick estimate of potential frequency by dividing impressions by reach.
  • Demographics
  • Census Data
  • Data Modeling
  • GPS Tracking Data

What Are Effective Reach vs Effective Frequency?

You can think of effective reach as a kind of hybrid metric that combines both standard reach and frequency measurements — Effective reach is the percentage of individuals exposed to your ads enough times that they’re likely to have taken notice.

This baseline amount of exposure is known as effective reach.

Effective reach can also be measured using…

  • Census Data
  • Data Modeling
  • GPS Tracking Data
  • Digital Statistics, e.g. Comparisons between pre- and post-campaign sales figures, online traffic, use of unique promo codes, etc.

What Are Impressions?

Whereas reach refers to how many individuals see an advertisement in a set time frame, and frequency refers to how many times an individual is exposed to an advert in a set time frame, impressions refer to how many times your ad was served.

For example, let’s say you’ve invested in a spot on a digital billboard that cycles through ads from 4 other businesses throughout the day perpetually. Your impressions metric would show the number of times your ad was displayed in a given time period.

On traditional billboards, impressions would refer to how many show your ad in a certain area. This is important as other businesses may have a more saturated presence in the area than yours, which would pull focus from your ads.

As they’re a simple count of ad servings, impressions are one of the easiest metrics to keep track of.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could just maximize both reach and frequency and be done with it? You’d be pulling in customers left and right, and, quite frankly, you wouldn’t care to learn more about either one in this article.

As we’re sure you’re aware, implementing marketing campaigns costs money, and you’ll be splitting your budget between the campaign’s reach and frequency.

If you pump more capital into one, then you have less to allocate to the other. In the world of OOH marketing, finding the right balance between reach and frequency is critical to effective billboard advertising.

Reach vs Frequency: Which Should You Prioritize?

It’s common for businesses to prioritize reach over frequency, as they think the more people that see the ad the better, but this is commonly overlooked in marketing.

While it’s true that you want lots of people to see your advertisement, in the absence of frequency, reach can be a complete waste of money.

Modern life is incredibly cutthroat and fast-paced, and people’s attentions are constantly split between a number of things. To claim some valuable real estate in someone’s mind, you need them to see your ad multiple times — you need to establish an effective frequency!

Effective frequency usually sits around the 3+ exposures mark, and once you have that on lock, you can utilize the effective reach metric and gain a more accurate picture of how your campaign is panning out.

Prioritizing frequency at the expense of reach can also be a critical error, as your ad simply won’t engage with enough members of your target audience. The trick is to learn when it’s strategic to back one metric horse over the other, so to speak.

When Should You Prioritize Reach?

Reach is most important when you’re introducing a new product or service.

Statistically speaking, reach works best when introducing something new to the public. So if you’ve got something fresh to contribute to established markets or, better yet, something groundbreaking to offer in emerging markets, reach should get the lion’s share of your budget.

Reach is most important with an established brand advertising seasonal promotions.

If your brand is already a household name in the area, and you want to entice people with a seasonal sale of some kind, you don’t need to worry so much about frequency, as this foreknowledge of your company does a lot of the heavy lifting.

Reach is most important when there is a lack of competition.

The more saturated a space is with the marketing campaigns of competing businesses, the more you need to lean into frequency and bolster impressions to draw attention, but if the area is largely uncontested, you can win the attention war with a reach-laden campaign.

measuring reach vs frequency

When Should You Prioritize Frequency?

Frequency is most important when establishing your brand.

When you’re trying to break your brand name into the public consciousness, whether locally or nationally, repetition is your best friend, so it’s important to shift a certain amount of your budget over to frequency and impressions.

Frequency is most important when establishing trust.

If your campaigns are executed artfully, with just the right amount of repeat exposure, you can inspire feelings of comfort and familiarity in your audience, thereby establishing trust. Without investing in frequency, this trust will not develop in the mind of your target audience.

Frequency is the most important when there is a wealth of competition.

We’ve all been in a situation where two or more people are trying to speak to us at the same time.

How much of this tangled talk do you actually hear and comprehend?

None of it, right?

Unless, that is, one of the voices is shouting.

The same is true of OOH advertising.

In a heavily contested zone, your brand needs to rise above the rest and dominate the scene. It needs to stand up and shout (visually speaking), and the way to imbue your ads with a voice is maximizing frequency and impressions — it’s like giving them a microphone!

Advertising Metrics Can Change

The above suggestions aren’t exactly golden rules, as there are a number of variables to consider before maximizing one metric over the other. Nothing is set in stone.

Every marketing strategy has its own flavor, its own nuances, and creative approach, and no impression is exactly analogous to another. As such, there is no standard format for implementing and monitoring campaigns.

We know this can sound pretty daunting, but you’re not in this alone!

bMedia and Advertising Metrics

Here at bMedia, we don’t just provide you the physical space to exhibit your OOH advertisements; our dedicated team of marketing experts help you build your campaign from the ground up to suit your goals.

As a business owner, it’s important to understand the synergy between reach vs frequency and impressions, but if you’re not quite sure how to optimize metric balance, we’ll ease the burden with sound advice on measuring advertising effectiveness.

Our OOH advertising network spans the entire nation of Puerto Rico, so you can rest assured we have the sites available to maximize any metric in almost any location.

We can help you start telling your story, but more importantly, we can guarantee people see it!