One More Word on Frequency

We now know with a very high degree of confidence that frequency works wonders for local advertisers.

So do most of the advertisers. 

But the phrase “frequency works” needs some clarification, because advertisers could reach a frequency threshold in a timely window … and still be wasting money. They look at a proposal on a piece of paper and see that they’re getting an average frequency that surpasses the desired threshold, so all looks good, right?

Well, no.

What tends to happen in many ad campaigns is that, while the average frequency might be a 3.5, the distribution of that frequency is a little too wide to generate the desired results.

An example may illustrate this point. Let’s say there are 100 people in my market who are looking to buy a Toyota Camry this week, and I’m a Toyota dealer looking to get some frequency against those Camry-shoppers. I get my 3.5 frequency.  However, 50 of the shoppers have seen my add six times, and another 50 of them have seen it once.

That still averages out to a 3.5, doesn’t it folks?

It doesn’t take a lot of number crunching to figure out that there’s a lot of waste in just reaching a frequency threshold without proper distribution. In the example above, I get my 350 impressions delivered to the 100 Camry-shoppers … however, a full half (175) of these impressions are wasted. Nothing like driving up my cost of doing business!

Although the example above is complete hyperbole, it demonstrate exactly what’s happening with improper media placement.  Many advertisers and agencies are still shopping on rate and disintegrating a retail platform that would otherwise work very well. Good advertising reduces the acquisition cost of new customer. Our example above would raise it.

The right approach is to “stack” the buy, such that we distribute the frequency.  That way, a much larger portion of the audience is closer to our desired average (the hypothetical 3+ frequency we stated above).  This elimates a lot of waste and ingrains the message in a broader audience.  This math will deliver on the lot too, as more ups visit the Toyota store, and the cost-per-car-sold (the “PVR”) declines.

There is another way we need to do this, which we aren’t right now.

The internet affords us the ability to “frequency cap”, and as an industry, we’re just not doing it.  Why not? Frequency capping is a simple concept.  It sets an upper limit that will stop delivering an impression to a specific visitor (over a timeframe) once that visitor has reached a specified limit.

This also distributes our frequency more evenly, and extends our message to a larger audience.  I have fewer visitors getting eight, nine, or ten impressions. Therefore, the ad is seen by a larger audience with a more even distribution. 

Frequency capping is included as a standard feature in many CMS platforms today. Oh, and it’s probably one of the least-used of the features too.

An online ad may target a similar audience of Camry shoppers as noted in the broadcast example above, and look to attain a 3 frequency against an army of 100 shoppers. However, without frequency-capping chances are very good I’ll waste about 50% of my buy.

When we get it right, whether on-air or online, the end result is retail success. More specifically, the business that has an evenly distributed frequency greatly increases its odds of drawing more customers per dollar of budget.

Isn’t that “good advertising” stated in its simplest terms?

To learn more about evenly-distributed frequency and other media tactics that make advertising success more predictable, please contact ESA & Company today.

Dave Eckstein does not play shortstop and was never the MVP of the World Series. He is a partner in the firm ESA & Company, based in Red Bank, New Jersey.

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2 Comments

  1. This makes perfect sense … however when i inquired if we could do this with our advertising, they (the sales rep) said it wasn’t possible. Am I talking to somebody who may not realize how to do it and if so what do you advise?

  2. Thanks for your post Sharon. If you are advertising on a local media website, ask your contact / rep what “CMS” they are using (content management system). It may be something like IB or WorldNow. Whatever the case, chances are very good that you can control the frequency cap on your buy. If you still get nowhere, ask to talk to the Interactive (or Internet) Sales Manager. They’ll know for sure. It is not very well documented as of today, but it’s very easy to activate. If you have questions, please send me an email. -DE

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