Radio Reaches The Most People Possible. And That’s Good.


(By Bob McCurdy) There was a terrific article in ADWEEK recently by Andy Sippel, SVP at Advertising Perceptions, a business intelligence firm that serves the ad industry. It was titled, “Reach Is The New Black: Advertising’s Mass Re-Awakening,” with a sub-title that read, “Narrow Targeting Has Its Uses But TV and Radio Offer Greater Impact.” You can read the article here.

Sippel wrote, “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should, in data and targeting. However you slice it, there’s a predictable unpredictability in hyper precision. It’s impractical to identify and connect individually with all of the people who are in the market for a product at any given moment in time. The surer route is to reach the most customers possible. That means building the bedrock of a media plan on channels with reliable mass.”

I’ve written extensively about the importance of “reaching” rather than “preaching,” liberally borrowing from a couple of expert marketing mavens, Erwin Ephron as well as Byron Sharp and Jenni Romaniuk, both of the Ehrenberg Bass Institute.

Here’s Ephron, “Since purchases are made each week and we don’t know who will make them, the media goal is to reach as many different consumers as possible in as many different weeks as possible in order to reach the few that are in the market at any time. Recency planning never claims one exposure is enough. It argues that, in the short-term, additional exposures are more often wasteful, because the recipient is not likely to be in the market. The scanner panel evidence bears this out. It shows reaching three consumers once will result in more sales than reaching one consumer three times-and the costs are about the same.”

The scanner data Ephron referenced showed that households receiving a single advertisement bought 73% as much product as households receiving any number of advertisements. I recently uncovered the same point-of-diminishing-returns phenomenon while reviewing a Cumulus/Westwood One auto aftermarket study, which showed that those exposed to 1-2 commercials generated 2.4x the sales lift per ad dollar as those exposed to 3-6 commercials, and 3.7x the sales lift of those exposed to 7+ commercials.

Sharp and Romaniuk have also written extensively about the importance of reach in their book How Brands Grow, stressing the importance of reaching all consumers of the brand’s/product service category, suggesting all marketing options be evaluated in terms of their ability to cost-effectively reach as many customers regardless of demo.

Last year, P&G confirmed the importance of reach when their Chief Marketing Officer, Marc Pritchard, said, “We targeted too much and we went too narrow.” In the same Wall Street Journal article, James Douglas, Executive Director of social media agency Society, an Interpublic company, referenced case studies that confirmed companies receive a bigger sales increase if they reach a more significant portion of a platform’s overall audience. Douglas highlighted a P&G example where they targeted Febreze ads to pet owners and households with large families, only to find that sales stagnated but rose when the target was expanded to include anyone over 18.

Maria Mandel Dunsche, VP Head of Marketing AT&T AdWorks, recently said, “When thinking about addressable advertising a lot of people automatically go to micro-targeting, they think it is black or white, but there is a grey area to targeting. Ultimately, targeting doesn’t need to be extreme, marketers can also target just enough to minimize waste, [but] not so much that you reduce reach.”

Radio formats fall within this “grey area,” enabling an advertiser to target both psychographically and demographically.

The takeaway from all of this? As Ephron wrote, “strive for as many first impressions as possible,” which translates to aim for broad reach, as it’s becoming increasingly clear that lower campaign reach makes it harder to maintain the same sales level, let along grow.

Two key radio benefits, low cost and high reach, remain very attractive media propositions in 2017.

Bob McCurdy is The Vice President of Sales for The Beasley Media Group and can be reached at [email protected]


  1. What keeps consultants employed is this notion (all subjective) of what constitutes optimum frequency before the devil-diminishing returns- takes hold and wastes ad dollars.
    Consultants have been searching for that magical point for decades-a fool’s errand if there ever was one-and still come up empty.

    Permit me to save you lots of effort, time and money.

    The point of diminishing return does not exist. That’s why it cannot be found.

    You see, even after a prospect buys and most feel the project is complete, purchasers of a product are still listening to ads for that product, and each ad reassures them that their decision was wise. They then become “word-of-mouth” for that product, telling others of the product’s wonderful benefits.
    The marketplace is continually churning, placing new prospects into the buying cycle, exposing them to advertising which helps guide them through the process.

    Just master that aspect-selling ads, and lots of them, to reach the greatest number of prospects before, during, and after purchases, and all will be well.


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