7 min read

Reach vs Frequency: Are You Prioritizing the Right Metrics?

Data-driven advertising makes it possible to engage your audience with precision and personalized marketing strategies.

The marketing industry has turned marketing into an application of data science by drilling down into how many times you should engage with your target market to improve brand awareness and drive purchases.

Table of Contents

  1. Reach vs Frequency
  2. What Does Reach Mean in Marketing?
  3. What Is Frequency?
  4. Reach vs Frequency, Which Is More Important?
  5. How To Optimize Reach And Frequency
  6. Maximize Your Reach and Frequency With Strategus

Reach vs Frequency




But the deeper you dive into the numbers, the more important it is to know which elements to prioritize, as these two marketing metrics often seem to butt heads creating a reach vs. frequency relationship.

According to Branding Strategy Insider’s analysis of the right mix of reach and frequency, “Nielsen found in a 2017 study that digital ads needed between five and nine exposures to improve branding and increase consumer acceptance.”

However, how you reach that number of interactions matters: you need to reach the right market over the right duration of time to ensure each exposure is high-quality and engaging.

In this guide, we will explore what reach and frequency mean, how to calculate reach and frequency for your market strategy, and then discuss which one you should prioritize and optimize.


What Does Reach Mean In Marketing?


Reach is the number of viewers within a set period that is potentially exposed to your marketing effort or ad campaign. For example, a radio ad may have a reach of 80,000 listeners that regularly tune into the program. However, that reach does not guarantee that 80,000 people heard the ad — or were even actively listening to it if they did hear it.

Arranging a reach marketing definition for your campaign ensures that only targeted consumers received the message.




What Is Frequency?


Frequency is the number of times an individual consumer is likely to be exposed to an ad during a marketing campaign. Increasing the frequency of exposure increases both the likelihood that an individual has a high-quality engagement with the ad and that they have multiple touchpoints (or interactions) with your brand.


The Inverse Relationship Between Reach and Frequency


Maximizing both your reach and frequency throughout a marketing campaign can seem like an excellent way to secure marketing qualified leads and drive more purchases. But when you have a finite budget, you can’t increase both factors.

Generally, expanding your reach reduces your spending capacity for recurring ads. Similarly, increasing your frequency limits the money you can spend on reach.

With these limitations in mind, marketers need to be able to find the right balance between increasing reach and frequency.




Reach vs Frequency, Which Is More Important?


When you’re trying to keep your ad campaigns under budget, you might find yourself asking whether you should prioritize reach or frequency. While the difficult answer is “both,” there are times when you can safely prioritize one over the other.


When You Should Focus on Frequency


Ensuring your audience receives multiple instances of exposure to your message matters most when considering the total customer lifetime value, and specific contextual conditions:

  • You have a niche audience: When you have a very specific market, reaching outside of that market to a general audience simply isn’t profitable. Also, the specific ad messages that work best with a very niche audience won’t translate easily to other consumers.
  • Your target market is ready to buy: Ramping up exposure through greater frequency is a very convincing tactic for shoppers that are ready to make a quick purchase.

Ultimately, frequency should be your priority when you already know your target market and you’re trying to drive sales.


When You Should Focus on Reach


Increasing reach is a great tool for expanding brand awareness in your target market. Your ideal customers may not yet be aware of your business, so trying new marketing media or using broader marketing channels is a great way to increase exposure.

If you’re growing your business with new products or services or you want to grow your client base, prioritize reach.

Let’s revisit Branding Strategy Insider’s summary of the 2017 Nielsen report that states digital ads need between five and nine exposures to improve branding and increase consumer acceptance.

Even when you’re just looking at the number of touchpoints your campaigns need to achieve different goals, sales campaigns prioritize frequency and brand awareness campaigns prioritize reach.

Read more on SWOT analysis for smart advertising strategies here



How to Optimize Reach And Frequency


Building out processes and best practices for optimizing reach and frequency is the best way to know what to do for any future campaigns and projects. One way to do that is to partner with a marketing service that manages your OTT/CTV ads for maximum effectiveness. At Strategus, we use the following tactics to make sure our client's campaigns have the right balance of reach for growth and frequency for purchases:


Frequency Capping


Frequency capping does precisely what the name implies: it caps the number of times someone is exposed to an ad (or even a set of ads) in a specific campaign. Because online marketing through platforms like OTT and CTV generate lots of granular data that can help guide your campaigns, you can cap frequency for specific individuals.


Benefits of Frequency Capping

  • You avoid marketing fatigue and overexposure to your ads. Even interested shoppers can become frustrated by seeing the same ad too many times in one day.
  • You more efficiently manage marketing spend. Marketers get a higher ROI per ad view and across a campaign by making sure ads don’t funnel too many times to the same individual.



Dayparting is a popular tactic for scheduling the window — whether it be the time of day, day of the week, or both — when the ad plays. A restaurant may want to serve ads promoting their happy hour specials during business days and business hours, for example. 


Benefits of Dayparting:

  • You more effectively reach your market when they’re likely to be watching or shopping.

Maximize Your Reach and Frequency With Strategus


At Strategus, we specialize in optimizing online and digital marketing campaigns so you cost-effectively reach your target market.

Talk to us today about finding the right balance between reach and frequency for your next campaign.


Self-service vs managed service comparison chart1

Click here for the complete handbook on frequency in advertising

Posted by Strategus