How To Achieve Share Of Voice By Balancing Reach + Frequency In Media Planning

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Media planning is the process of researching and assembling recommendations on the most effective advertising platforms to raise awareness of and drive engagement with a brand. Media directors consider a host of factors when planning an advertising campaign. Experienced media planners think carefully about how deeply a campaign engages its target audience, how many times that group sees the ads, and how many other competitive messages that group experiences within the defined market. Together, those three key components — reach, frequency, and share of voice — work to achieve your campaign goals.

What is reach?

Reach is the number of potential customers or prospects exposed to your brand via a particular media vehicle.

Reach matters for two reasons:

  1. Media planners look at reach data to determine the amount of audience impressions delivered.
  2. Media vendors base the cost of advertising on the size and scope of a media platform’s audience reach.

For example, it is more expensive to place a quarter-page ad in a regional newspaper like The Boston Globe than it is to place the same sized ad in a local paper like the Newburyport Daily News. The price differential reflects the larger paper’s more extensive subscriber base and its corresponding ability to deliver more exposure for advertisers.

Media planners compare pricing for campaigns based on the standard pricing unit, CPM, or cost-per-thousand-impressions delivered. We review and compare pricing on audience delivery across a variety of media platforms to determine where the most effective and efficient buy will occur. Media purchase decisions are based on a planner’s understanding of the demographic and psychographic profiles of the target audience and knowledge about where they spend most of their time-consuming information throughout a typical day. A well-designed media plan will reach as big a segment of the target audience as possible, with the most frequency and budget-friendliness as possible.

What is frequency?

Frequency refers to the number of times potential customers get exposed to your message throughout an advertising campaign. We know from decades of advertising industry research that the average consumer must see an advertising message multiple times before she is willing to take an action step, such as filling out a form or making a purchase. Way back in 1885, Thomas Smith published his theory on ad frequency that some planners may argue still applies today:

  1. The first time a man looks at an advertisement, he does not see it.
  2. The second time, he does not notice it.
  3. The third time, he is conscious of its existence.
  4. The fourth time, he faintly remembers having seen it before.
  5. The fifth time, he reads it.
  6. The sixth time, he turns up his nose at it.
  7. The seventh time, he reads it through and says, “Oh brother!”
  8. The eighth time, he says, “Here’s that confounded thing again!”
  9. The ninth time, he wonders if it amounts to anything.
  10. The tenth time, he asks his neighbor if he has tried it.
  11. The eleventh time, he wonders how the advertiser makes it pay.
  12. The twelfth time, he thinks it must be a good thing.
  13. The thirteenth time, he thinks perhaps it might be worth something.
  14. The fourteenth time, he remembers wanting such a thing a long time.
  15. The fifteenth time, he is tantalized because he cannot afford to buy it.
  16. The sixteenth time, he thinks he will buy it some day.
  17. The seventeenth time, he makes a memorandum to buy it.
  18. The eighteenth time, he swears at his poverty.
  19. The nineteenth time, he counts his money carefully.
  20. The twentieth time he sees the ad, he buys what it is offering.

Twenty exposures may sound excessive in today’s media-heavy world, and going for that high of a frequency goal would certainly raise a campaign’s cost per acquisition. Fortunately, modern advertising experts have rounded Mr. Smith’s frequency number to around seven. Even so, there are exceptions to this rule that depend on factors like:

  • The profile of your target audience.
  • Brand awareness among the target audience.
  • The goals for the advertising campaign.
  • The competitive environment.
  • Product attributes such as cost, ease of access, consumer needs, etc.

What is share of voice?

Share of voice refers to the amount of exposure a brand must achieve to be seen and heard in a competitive marketplace. I sometimes explain share of voice to my clients by reminding them that we need to yell louder than everyone else so that we will be heard above the din of their competitors.

All media planners should take reach, frequency, and share of voice into consideration when planning an advertising campaign. Reaching a specific target audience in a heavily saturated marketplace with several already-established competitors requires achieving a higher campaign frequency to garner the necessary share of voice for your brand.

Advertising campaigns perform most effectively if they include a combination of strategically-selected media platforms. A professional media planner understands how to create a unique advertising campaign designed to meet your defined business objectives.

If you’re thinking of launching a media campaign or have questions about advertising, please get in touch. We’ll be happy to walk you through our strategic process and explain how we can help you achieve optimal reach and frequency to achieve share of voice for your product or service.

Anne Richardson

​Anne Richardson is the owner and media director of Richardson Media Group, an agency specializing in media planning and buying, advertising campaign management and SEO.

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Anne outside the door of the Richardson Media Group office.
In addition to her role as owner and media director here at RMG, Anne authors the majority of our blog posts. Favorite topics include the entrepreneurial journey, media planning and buying, and forming productive agency partnerships.