Improve the view in the range salad

The quantitative performance indicator "reach" is always included as a currency for media planning. This key figure has steadfastly weathered all the storms of digitization so far. Is reach in the omnichannel world (still) fit for managing the success of paid media? A field report with tips from media research.


Admittedly, there are more titillating topics than "reach". But the performance indicator is omnipresent among advertisers, agencies and media. Reach is used as a currency when measures are designed and the bulk of budgets are planned. The key figure is used diligently above all for classic media such as newspapers, TV or radio as well as online media.

Knowing the composition and origins of the reach number better is worthwhile, if only because the currency has a significant influence on the implementation success of strategies and campaigns.

1. reach is not equal to reach

In essence, reach provides information about the number of people who are reached. However, reach values are collected and defined differently depending on the type of media (press, radio, television, posters, cinema, etc.). Therefore, not all reach is the same. This leads to a real range salad. The result is a corresponding lack of clarity.

2. most different people

Which people are really being reached, you might ask. In the case of paid media, the majority are users, or more precisely media users. And these users differ understandably according to the type of media, e.g. newspaper readers, Internet surfers, TV viewers or moviegoers. Complex! What is essential is that the reach of media users cannot be equated with the reach of customers, non-customers or (potential) buyers. These values are much lower than media user reach.

3. final station Intermedia comparison

The two-page fact sheet "Definition of the Narrower User Group" from WEMF (2017) provides very specific information on this topic: "For an intermedia comparison, a common denominator is necessary with regard to the use of the various media types. Reach values are not suitable for this purpose, as these are collected and defined differently for each media genre."

The questionnaire used to collect the values provides clarity. E.g. for the media genre press: "How many out of six consecutive issues of a certain title are normally read or leafed through? 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 "read or flipped through " assessment criteria.

Success control with fictitious accuracy

As is well known, (almost) every key figure is subject to a certain degree of uncertainty. It goes without saying that advertisers consider the aspects of effectiveness (doing the right things) and efficiency (doing things right) in media planning. Optimal use of the budget should generate sufficient advertising pressure to achieve success in terms of image and sales. In order to achieve visibility and perception of one's own advertising, the impact threshold must be exceeded. The measure for the control of advertising pressure is the well-known Gross Rating Point (GRP). The composition: reach in percent multiplied by average contacts. The basis - how could it be otherwise - is the reach.

Recommendations from research and consulting practice

The fact is that planning and managing paid media strategies and campaigns is becoming not only more challenging, but also more risky. Increasingly, there are total failures: Expensive campaigns are insufficiently perceived by the target groups or not perceived at all, because success-critical thresholds are not exceeded. Our experience shows: Those who consciously correct the blurring in the omnichannel reality and focus on a few selected touchpoints have much more success. Further success criteria are:

  • Measure reach values for the (potential) customers;
  • Align advertising pressure with (potential) customers: if in doubt, increase advertising pressure and budgets;
  • In addition to the purely quantitative performance indicator "reach," also use qualitative criteria - such as relevance of the interaction as well as affinity of the target group to a mix of measures;
  • Implement end-to-end integration of paid media with owned and earned across the entire customer journey, both online and offline;
  • Measure campaign success to continuously optimize activities.

The author: Christoph Spengler is founder and managing director of Accelerom, an internationally active consulting and research company based in Zurich. For more than ten years, Accelerom has been combining management practice and innovative research and supporting clients from analysis to implementation. Everything revolves around the customer's perspective and his customer journey in marketing, sales, communication and services - always holistic, always measurable, always with impact and profitability in focus. Christoph Spengler writes regularly in the print edition of Werbewoche. This article was already published in the current Werbewoche 10/2018 of June 1, 2018.

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