Reach Velocity — The Missing Metric

We’ve all been there. You know, the meeting where your client says, “I’d like to run this for two to three months” and then shares a budget with you that will cover the first two weeks. You quietly sigh and then run off to put together a skinny, stretched-out media plan that, in the end, may not achieve the client’s goal.

It happens across all industries and across all types of media every day. But as stewards of our clients’ budgets, it’s important to guide them away from a long campaign simply for the sake of having a long campaign. Instead, we should guide them toward the most effective campaign, whatever the length may be. To help make our case, we can call upon an old “tried and true” metric: reach velocity — the speed at which we achieve our desired reach.

In a recent blog post titled “The Missing Media Metric” , which describes the benefits and practice of applying the correct reach velocity to our plans, Bill Harvey gives a nod to the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve. It held that the more time lapses after an event occurs, the more likely we are as humans to forget that event. This theory was developed in 1885 and is still relevant 130 years later.

forgiving curve

Harvey also calls up on Erwin Ephron’s recency theory, which holds that ad impressions closest to the time of purchase are the most powerful. It followed that reaching consumers at the right time — when they’re in the market to buy — was key, as opposed to simply reaching them often. One study released in 1989 by ScanAmerica demonstrated that the “double tap” method of reaching the same individuals 2x within 2 days when they were in the market for a product generated far more store visits than if they were reached 1x or even 2x over a longer period of time.

Percentage grid

What all of our media forefathers didn’t take into consideration was the evolution of the Internet and the fragmentation of media consumption. We now contend with an average viewability rate of ~50% for our digital ads, and consumers are using more than one device, often simultaneously, to consume information. As we strive to be even more strategic in our planning, we are tasked with thinking of right place, right time, right message. But let’s not lose sight of the right number of times and in what time period would make the most sense to achieve our clients’ objectives.

A quick quote to end on: “There is more money wasted in advertising by underspending than by overspending. Years ago someone said that underspending in advertising is like buying a ticket halfway to Europe. You’ve spent your money but you never get there.” – Morris Hite