The “Miracle” Of Reach & Frequency


Apparently, the reach/frequency discussions have not stopped. Those having them, however, have been over-medicated and put to bed with the resultant hallucinations of fruit, candy, and cash that are part of the experience. I also note, with some alarm, how radio folks dive into the argument as if these were the most important elements of an advertiser’s campaign. (More on that expected shortly.)

For many years, I have been satisfied that a simple hierarchy exists in the reach/frequency dichotomy. It is as follows: Frequency, first. Reach, if lucky. This, practically, is, indeed and still, a dichotomy. Most AEs hardly ever get to book a campaign that includes both. It’s usually one or the other. That too many campaigns are relatively short-term is another matter. But, it is also a very real condition of radio sales – and advertisers’ successes and failures.

Beyond some weak, but still completely and blindly accepted generalizations about the reach/frequency situation, I believe most radio folks have yet to be educated in the audience-access dynamics of radio and, as a result, the amazing power of both of these components. The influence can be extraordinary, and the potentials are enormous. In fact, the potentials are blow-minding, so to speak.

As to the reach/frequency discussion, allow me to add another consideration: If an advertiser’s deal or offer is so spectacular – enough to generate interest and (hopefully) immediate buying behaviors from the audience – “reach” is the way to go. But, I repeat: It had better be a sensational offer! Everything, and I mean everything, else falls into the “frequency” realm. (All of this is based on available budget, of course.)

I also accept the premise that it is more useful to communicate to a select audience many times than it is to reach a larger audience a few times – again, depending on the advertisers’ offers – and budget. Another factor is significantly in play as well, and I shall address that now.

I read a comment recently from a radio person who stated: “Radio – when done properly – works!” I am no one to argue that! This is a categorically true statement and an overall sentiment promoted within the business. It’s almost a mantra. Fair enough – except for that one niggling “yahbut” within the claim.

“…When done properly…” becomes the closed bottle of bleach thrown into the aquarium. If that cap ever comes off….! There are too many people toiling in every department of a station who have yet to discover what “if done properly” actually means – never mind what it entails to deliver on the promise to do so.

Regular readers may have noticed that, every time I trod down this path, there are those who will discount the working facts and apply slanders in attempts to discount the material and, more importantly, defend an indefensible turf. This is a turf made up of gross misunderstandings of broadcast dynamics. I suggest very few have even made the attempt to become educated in these matters. Unfortunately, this is also a position that is rife in the industry.

Meanwhile, and I am always compelled to acknowledge this, radio continues to be – more or less – a semi-functional but still functioning medium. Hard charging, motivated, and unrelenting sales departments are, in my view, almost exclusively responsible for maintaining any status quo.

I have an open, but still almost rhetorical, question about the sales folks from the local stations. These are the people who are hitting the bricks every day to represent their medium, generally, and their outfits specifically. How is it, I wonder, that the sales staffs are not outside the GMs’ offices, brandishing the obligatory torches and pitchforks, ranting and demanding the most important elements of all be supplied instantly – much better messaging!?

For the last three years in this space, and with the indulgence and patience of the management, and for a couple of decades prior, I have continuously made the claim that radio copy has been a representation of the lowest caliber of professional communications being supplied to and foisted on otherwise uninformed advertisers. That audiences have also been cruelly subjected to this drivel is part of this awful, incredible circumstance.

Yet, during this passage of time, has anyone ever provided a single, cogent counter-argument to the claim? No, they have not. This is, of course, more than extraordinary – it is spectacularly mind numbing and without explanation. By comparison, lemmings could be held up as a species that is accessing “choices.”

As a V/O-ho’, myself, I am aware of my own hypocrisy. Every day, I voice unmitigated crap! But, when I do, I rest assured, knowing that I have delivered the material with all the almost solid and tangible credibility I can muster, as it drops from my lips with goodness, wholesomeness, and sincerity. (Invoices are forwarded summarily.)

Still, the counter-arguments dry and shrivel on the vine – unpicked, untasted, and unenjoyed. So far as I know, even the professional developers-of-talent have not been addressing this most significant issue. I say “most” because, particularly those stations who are bereft of any significant input from “live & local” talent anyway, are still, in my view, obliged to supply at least some form of influential ad copy for their clients.

Meanwhile, I am also unaware of any shift in radio where these issues are being put on the table as a #1 priority – if they get discussed at all. However, as radio enjoys a unique neurological access to its audiences, and as a result, a special form of influence, the status quo is maintained. Still, I submit: The “miracle” of radio’s reach and frequency is still that more campaigns don’t fall flat on their ass because of atrocious messaging.

Ronald T. Robinson has been involved in Canadian radio since the ’60s as a performer, writer and coach, and has trained and certified as a personal counselor. Reach out to him at [email protected]


  1. Thanks, Bob.
    When I first made my own (scientifically demonstrated) discovery of the “Power” of radio, I was so freaked out, I got a little paranoid, and was debating whether to go live in a cardboard box over a sidewalk heating grate.
    That was over 30 years ago and with rare exceptions, including yourself and Ridge Harlan, that component lies fallow on station floors.

  2. Good information, Ron. I had a sage mentor who had earlier taught at Stanford. Ridge Harlan always emphasized that there were 3 critical legs to the marketing stool: The Powers of the medium of radio itself; The Powers of the individual station, especially with regard to proper demographics and adequate frequency
    provided; and The Power of a well-written, compelling ad. When an advertiser says, “I tried radio and it didn’t work,” that’s the time to review with them which of the last two legs allowed the stool to fall over.

  3. Mizz Hiding Anonymously Shelly, for all her uninformed, mean-spirited and consistently redundant commentaries, seems to be unaware of the irony she demonstrates, in that the matters being discussed are “reach”, “frequency” and “messaging” – delivering useful materials on a regular basis to whomever is being reached.
    Still, no response to the content.

  4. What’s worse than Ronnie’s mush? Ronnie’s recycled mush.

    Same old, same old. If you were a woman Ronnie, we’d call you a nag. But, you’re not, so we call you a bore.


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