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Communication Goals

Easy Advertising Communication Goals

After media planners define the target audience for a media plan, they set communication goals: to what degree the target audience must be exposed to (and interact with) brand messages in order to achieve advertising and marketing objectives. For example, one communication goal can be that 75 percent of the target audience will see the brand in television commercials at least once during a period of three months. Another communication goal is that 25 percent of the target audience will form a preference for a new brand in the first month of the brand launch. The different communication goals can be better understood in a hierarchy of advertising objectives, such as Bill Harvey’s expansion of an earlier model of Advertising Research Foundation (ARF).[18]

The expanded ARF model has ten levels, as shown in Figure 1. The first three levels of goals from the bottom — vehicle distribution, vehicle exposure, and advertising exposure — are particularly relevant for media planning. Vehicle distribution refers to the coverage of a media vehicle, such as the number of copies that a magazine or newspaper issue has, or the number of households that can tune in to a given television channel. Vehicle exposure refers to the number of individuals exposed to the media vehicle, such as the number of people who read a magazine or watched a television program. Advertising exposure refers to the number of individuals exposed an ad or a commercial itself.

It is important to note the difference between vehicle exposure and advertising exposure for many media with editorial content. For example, not all audience members of a television program will watch all the commercials interspersed in the program. A study shows that only 68 percent of television audiences watch the commercials in television programs.[19] Vehicle exposure represents only an opportunity to see an ad, not necessarily that the ad has actually been seen. In reality, advertising exposure is rarely measured, and media planners use vehicle exposure as a proxy measure of advertising exposure.

Another group of communication goals is advertising recall, advertising persuasion, leads and sales. Advertising recall represents the cognitive effect of the ad, advertising persuasion represents the emotional effect of the ad, and leads and sales are the behavioral effects of the ad. Each can be specified in a media plan as a communication goal. For example, a communication goal can specify that 50% of the target audience will recall the radio ad during the month of the campaign, or that a campaign will generate 3000 leads.

Figure 1

ARF Model Expanded for Interactive

Reach, Frequency and Gross Rating Points

Media planners often define the communication goals of a media plan using the three interrelated concepts of reach, gross rating points, and frequency. Media planners use reach to set their objective for the total number of people exposed to the media plan. Reach is one of the most important terms in media planning and has three characteristics. First, reach is a percentage, although the percentage sign is rarely used. When reach is stated, media planners are aware of the size of the target audience. For example, if a media plan targets the roughly 5 million of women who are 18-25 years old, then a reach of 50 means that 50% or 2.5 million of the target audience will exposed to some of the media vehicles in the media plan. Second, reach measures the accumulation of audience over time. Because reach is always defined for a certain period of time, the number of audience members exposed to the media vehicles in a media plan increases over time. For example, reach may grow from 20 (20%) in the first week to 60 (60%) in the fourth week. The pattern of audience accumulation varies depending on the media vehicles in the media plan. Third, reach doesn’t double-count people exposed multiple times if the media plan involves repeated ads in one media category or ads in multiple media categories. Media planners use reach because it represents that total number of people exposed to the marketing communication.

Besides reach, media planners use Gross Rating Points as a shorthand measure of the total amount of exposure they want to buy from media outlets such as TV networks. For example, the 2006 Super Bowl game received a rating of 42, which means 42 percent of U.S. television households tuned in to the program. If an advertiser planned to run a commercial once during the Super Bowl, that ad would appear in 42% of households. If the commercial was run only once, the reach is equal to the rating of the program, a GRP of 42. If the advertiser’s media plan called for running the ad twice during the Super Bowl, the GRP would be 2*42 = 84.

Media planners often think in terms of gross rating points because ad prices often scale with this measure. As a rule of thumb, it costs about twice as much to obtain a GRP of 84 as to obtain a GRP of 42. A media plan that calls for a GRP of 84 doesn’t necessarily mean that the advertiser must advertise twice on the Super Bowl. The advertiser could also buy 6 spots on popular primetime shows that each have a rating of 14 (6*14 = 84) or buy a large number of spots (say 42 spots) on a range of niche-market cable TV programs, radio stations or magazines that have a rating of 2. Some media vehicles are best-suited to specific target audiences. For example, the Nickelodeon TV channel controls 53% of kids GRPs.[20]

Notice the difference between GRP and reach: GRP counts total exposures while reach counts unique people exposed. Thus, GRP does double-count people who see ads multiple times. Frequency connects the concept of reach with that of GRP. To see this relationship between GRP and reach, let’s consider what happens when an advertiser puts two spots on the Super Bowl — one during the first half of the game and another in the second half. As mentioned earlier, this example plan has a GRP of 84. But what is the reach? That depends on how many people watch both halves of the game. Rating services such as A.C. Nielsen monitor who watches the game, when they watch, and whether they watch the first half or the second half or both halves of the game.

These rating services know that, for example, 1/3 of the game-watching households stop watching after the first half and 1/3 of game-watching households start watching during the second half. This means that, although 42% of households are tuned in to the game during each half, it’s not the same 42% for both halves. Thus, the reach of the first ad is 42, but then one-third of these households (42%*1/3 = 14% of all households) tune out before the second ad during the second half. This means that only 28% of all households watch both first and second halves of the game and see the ad twice. This 28% of households who are still watching when the second spot shows won’t add to the reach when they see the second spot. During the second half, a different 14% of U.S. households tune in. These new watchers do count toward the reach during the second half because they didn’t see the ad during the first half. Thus, the total reach for the game for the two-ad plan is 42+14 = 56.

Frequency is the ratio of GRP over reach. Frequency is a measure of repetition. The formula of calculating frequency is:

Frequency = Gross rating points / Reach

Using the Super Bowl example again, if the GRPs were 84 and the reach was 56, then the frequency would then be 1.5 (84/56=1.5). A frequency of 1.5 would mean that, on average, audience members of the Super Bowl game had one-and-a-half opportunities to watch the ad.

The media objectives of a media plan often call for some combination of reach and frequency. Media planners want the highest reach possible because that means more people will be exposed to the campaign, which should lead to more brand awareness, customer loyalty, sales, and so on. Media planners also seek high frequency if they feel that consumers will only take action (that is, buy the product) after multiple exposures to the campaign. For example, launching a new brand or teaching consumers about the features of a product (like the features of a five-bladed shaving system) may take several impressions.

Thus, reach indicates the media dispersion while frequency shows the media repetition. Notice that the formula for frequency can be flipped to make a formula for GRPs; GRPs are the product of reach multiplied by frequency. If a media plan calls for a broad reach and a high frequency, then it calls for very high GRPs (lots of ad exposures to lots of people). Achieving a very high GRP is very expensive, however, and budget issues may preclude such a high GRP. Thus, media planners may start with budget, then estimate the GRPs that they can afford and then either sacrifice reach to maintain frequency or let frequency drop to one in order to maximize reach.

Frequency Distribution, Effective Frequency and Effective Reach

Media planners also consider frequency distribution in order to fully understand exactly how many exposures different people experience; that is, how many people will see the ad once, twice, three times, etc. This lets the planner estimate the effective reach of the plan at the effective frequency needed by the campaign ?the number of people who see the ads a sufficient number of times for the media plan to be effective.

Effective frequency refers to the minimum number of media exposures for a communication goal to be achieved, while effective reach is the reach (% of households) at the effective frequency level. Media planners choose an effective frequency based on the communication goals. Communication goals vary across the continuum from awareness, preference, attitude change to trial, purchase, and repurchase. To change brand attitude requires more exposures (higher effective frequency) than does creating brand awareness. If the effective frequency is set for a given communication goal, the reach at that effective frequency level will be the effective reach.

Let’s go back to the Super Bowl example. A total of 28% of households see the ad twice by watching the entirety of the game. During the first half, 14% of households see the ad once but then don’t watch the second half. Another 14% join the game in progress and see the ad once during the second half. Thus, 14+14 = 28% see the ad just once. This leaves 44% of households (100% – 28% – 28%) who never see the ad. In summary, the frequency distribution is: reach of 28 at the frequency of 2; reach of 28 at the frequency of 1; and reach of 44 at the frequency of 0 (also called non-reach).

Let’s extend this example by continuing this hypothetical campaign. On the Thursday after the Super Bowl, the advertiser does one more media blitz ?showing an encore of their Super Bowl ad on all major networks during the prime time slot of 8:00 to 8:30 PM. This practice of advertising on multiple channels at the same time ensures that most people will see the ad regardless of which channel they watch. Table 2 shows the viewer data, collected from households across the country, with the percentage of households who were watching during various combinations of the three time slots.

Table 2
Ratings of the Three Time Slots

Viewers of the Ad’s Time Slot
Segment Super Bowl First Half Super Bowl Second Half Prime Time Blitz Frequency % of Households
1 0 30
2 X 1 3
3 X 1 2
4 X 1 14
5 X X 2 5
6 X X 2 11
7 X X 2 12
8 X X X 3 23
Rating 42 42 60

Media planners can process this data to compute the frequency distribution (see Table 3) by tallying the total percentage of households that saw the ad 0, 1, 2, etc. times.

Table 3
Frequency Distribution of the Plan

Frequency Reach
0 30
1 19
2 28
3 23

If the advertiser believes that its ads are only effective if they are seen at least twice, then the advertiser will want to know what percentage of households saw the ad two or more times. In this example, the effective reach is 51 because that is the sum of the reaches for frequencies 2 and 3 combined.

GRPs of this media plan were 144 and reach was 70, because 30% of households did not watch during any of the three times the ad was shown, resulting in an average frequency of 2.1. The frequency distribution of the plan is in Table 9B. That is, 23 percent of the households watched the time slot three times, 28 percent twice, 19 percent once, and 30 percent did not watch at all.

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