Get to grips with reach

Posted by Christoph Spengler on 06.06.2018

Werbewoche - Durchblick im Reichweitensalat verbessern 2018/10

The quantitative performance indicator "reach" is always included as a factor in media planning. And so far, reach has steadfastly endured, despite the upheavals of digitalization. But in the omnichannel world, is reach (still) fit for use when it comes to managing paid media? Here are some ideas based on our experience - with tips from media research.

Admittedly, there are more exciting topics than "reach". However, this performance indicator is omnipresent among advertisers, agencies and the media. Reach is included as a measurement when activities are designed and budgets are the main constraint. Reach is used above all for classical media such as newspapers, TV, and radio, as well as online media.
It’s worthwhile understanding the composition and origin of the reach figure, if only because it has a significant influence on how successfully strategies and campaigns are implemented.

1. Not all reach is the same

In essence, reach provides information on the number of people got to. However, reach values are collected and defined differently depending on the type of media (press, radio, television, posters, cinema, etc.). So not all reach is the same. This results in a mixture of reaches, which then leads to distortions.

2. Different people

We need to ask which people are really reached. With paid media these are mainly users, more precisely media users. And understandably, these differ depending on the type of media, e.g. newspaper readers, internet surfers, television viewers, or cinema-goers. It’s complex. What’s important is that the reach among media users cannot be equated with the reach among customers, non-customers, or (potential) buyers. These values are considerably lower than media user reach.

3. Final station: inter-media comparison

The WEMF Swiss industry research organisation collections information on media use and has a two-page leaflet "Definition of the Narrow User Group" (2017), which provides specific input on this topic. "Inter-media comparison needs a common denominator regarding the use of various media types. Reach values are not suitable for this, as they are collected and defined differently for each media category."

The questionnaire used to collect the values makes this clear. For example, for the press: "How many out of six consecutive issues of a particular title do you normally read or leaf through? The answer options: six out of six OR five out of six OR four out of six OR three out of six." The attentive reader will notice the evaluation criteria "read or leaf through".

Managing with bogus accuracy

As is well known, (almost) every key figure is subject to a certain amount of distortion. Of course, advertisers consider both effectiveness (doing the right things) and efficiency (doing things right) when media planning. By using a budget optimally, sufficient advertising exposure should be generated to achieve success regarding image and sales. In order to achieve visibility and perception for your advertising, you need to exceed the effectiveness threshold. The well-known Gross Rating Point (GRP) is used to measure advertising impact. It is calculated as reach in percent multiplied by average contact frequency. The basis for this is the reach - how could it be otherwise?

Recommendations from research and our consultancy practice

The fact is that the planning and control of paid media strategies and campaigns is becoming not only more demanding, but also more risky. Increasingly, total failures are occurring: expensive campaigns are not perceived sufficiently or even not at all by the target groups, since success-critical threshold values are not being exceeded.

Our experience shows that companies that consciously correct the distortions in the omnichannel reality and focus on a few selected touchpoints are much more successful. Here are some more ways to achieve success:
- Measure reach values for (potential) customers
- Direct advertising exposure towards (potential) customers, and if in doubt, increase advertising exposure and budgets
- In addition to reach, which is a purely quantitative performance indicator, use qualitative criteria such as the relevance of the interaction and the affinity of the target group to a mix of measures
- Ensure consistent linkage of paid media with owned and earned touchpoints across the entire customer journey, online and offline
- Measure campaign results in order to continuously optimize activities

Christoph Spengler

Christoph Spengler’s core competencies include management, marketing, sales and corporate development. He worked for fifteen years in various sectors of the consumer goods, retail and financial services industries, during which time he gained comprehensive experience with international corporations. Christoph Spengler began his career in classical consumer goods marketing. He spent his first eight years with Unilever Switzerland, where he was Business Unit Director and member of management with responsibility for the whole of the drinks sector in Switzerland. He then moved to McDonald´s, where he was a member of management for four years as Head of the marketing department. His profound knowledge of corporate development is based on his time as a director at PricewaterhouseCoopers. His activities also included management of various international projects in the areas of finance and industry.