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The Truth About Reach, Frequency & Impressions

Not too long ago, performance indicators such as reach, frequency and CPM were commonly used to ensure a reasonable degree of success for brand campaigns—and were not considered to be your typical direct response tools. With audiences consuming TV differently, does that change the way we view audience quantification? Eyeballs are great and can be useful, but they don’t guarantee success.

Today’s TV landscape is vastly different and changing faster than ever before; these sands are continuing to shift every day. In the past, direct response advertisers only cared if the phone rang. These days, those same advertisers are less dependent on driving sales to a call center, and instead, rely more on drive-to-web, retail and app downloads.

In DR, response is still paramount.

Things like cord fraying and cord cutting have changed the way television is consumed. Linear TV is still alive and well, but it is now a slice of the pie—not the whole pie—and needs to be considered alongside things like aggregated local cable, over-the-top content (OTT) and video-on-demand among other platforms. Direct response television campaigns of yesteryear (well, yester-2010) were typically more focused on the amount of frequency they were getting on each station instead of how many eyeballs they were hitting with their message. Today, there are still elements of the old guard-buying spots with no eye on audience—but response is eroding because the audience is eroding. Those who remain are distracted.

As TV consumption evolves, so too must the way that DRTV media is tracked (see: cross-channel attribution). At the end of the day, response is still king. Weekly and daily tracking of results and optimization remain the same and impressions play almost no role in that regard.

While typical DRTV campaigns (those without a specific brand objective) do not have goals for GRP levels, reach or frequency, having a strategy around impression load is useful, and not only in cases where there is no historical data to rely on in the planning process.

If impressions have no bearing on the tracking or quantifying of success of a campaign, how are they useful to DRTV?

Impressions are not guaranteed for a DRTV buy, but CPMs can still be an important tool for negotiation and also play a key role in predicting success from an ROI perspective. Understanding the relationship between CPM and Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) enables advertisers to scale more quickly and build future media plans with greater confidence that they will deliver response rates within their client’s goal.

Linear DRTV is still negotiated by spot frequency, and remnant inventory will never carry an impression guarantee, but it is important to (at the very least) have an estimate of the audience being reached. This helps advertisers find audiences which are equitably priced, as well as give them an idea of how aggregated audiences and streaming/OTT opportunities, like Hulu, fit into the overall DR strategy.

In this new world order, does audience quantification matter for DRTV?

Yes, it does. At the end of the day, several million household impressions are meaningless if no one responds, but fishing in a large pond at comparable CPMs will improve your chances of winning the ROI game.

Data, analysis, attribution and optimization. We can help you grow your business.

About the author

Rebecca Barr, Executive Vice President, Media Strategy & Investment

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