Building Frequency in a Fragmented Digital World 

Building Frequency in a Fragmented Digital World 

It’s Q4 in 1985. Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” is number 30 on the Billboard Hot 100. You’re buying media to support a new store opening. You buy some local TV spots in “The Golden Girls,” “Growing Pains” and “Cheers” while booking an ad in the hometown paper. You add some radio into the mix because, hey, everyone is listening to Starship and Tears for Fears. You reach a million people. Life is good.   

OK, buying media in 1985 wasn’t that easy, but there were far fewer options to reach people. Fast forward to 2022 – TV viewership options are incredibly fragmented, though people are still watching nearly six hours a day. Phones stay within an arm’s reach and allow us constant access to unlimited information. There’s an app for everything (What plant is this? What stock should I buy? Is butter a carb?) There are millions of apps, websites, videos and podcasts. But the show that reaches millions of people and reignited Kate Bush? You can’t even advertise in it (yet). 

More People. More Platforms. More Time Spent with Media.  

The reality is that people spend on average 13 hours and 11 minutes per day with media. Great, right? While it’s exciting to think that your target audience is likely in a position to see or hear your message at virtually all waking hours, it can be challenging to narrow down the most effective channels. To start, we have to go beyond general demographics of our audience. Preliminary questions to ask include: With which media is my audience spending the most time? Do they have preferred social platforms? What kind of content are they consuming on those channels? What are their interests and values? The answers to these questions make the difference between targeting men 25-34 on ESPN and rock versus podcasts, Reddit and Twitch.  

Multiple Touchpoints are Key for Frequency  

Is there a magic number for how many times a person needs to see an ad before they take action? While it’s easy to refer back to lucky number seven, the short answer is: it depends.  Frequency has traditionally been defined as the average number of times a person sees or hears your ad during a campaign period. While the definition has remained the same, the challenge of achieving a high frequency due to the fragmentation of media consumption has dramatically increased over the past several years. A key consideration is, “How many tactics should be utilized without diluting the investment?” While the answer to that question will differ based on audience, industry, brand and more, one thing is nearly always true: If you’re not including a diverse media mix, you are missing opportunities to connect and build recall.  

Frequency Creates Opportunity for Diverse Content  

While finding the sweet spot of frequency is a challenge in itself, an extra layer to the puzzle is creating a strategy that allows for frequency on various channels to amplify different content. We are all familiar with the tried-and-true marketing funnel. In a simplistic view, it’s moving a customer from awareness to consideration to purchase. Not only does the strategy have to factor in what content potential customers needs at each stage in their journey, it has to account for the best way to get that content in front of someone. In many cases, paying for that connection can be a worthwhile investment.  

For example, video can be a wonderful tactic for top-of-the-funnel connections. However, depending on your audience and the video content itself, the best avenue might be broadcast, YouTube, Hulu, cinema or one of the thousands of channels available for streaming. Or perhaps running video on social media would be more efficient, considering consumption increased yet again this year with people spending an average of one hour and 15 minutes a day (which could be broken up among 3-7 platforms per day). After you’ve made an initial connection via video, you likely want your audience to read, see or hear something else, which is why you need a second or third media tactic to support the content you need to get in front of them. 

Key Considerations for Building Frequency 

Frequency was a solid KPI back in 1985, and it still is today. While we have a plethora of new, granular metrics for measuring success frequency is still a vital piece of the media strategy.  

Here is a recap of a few key things to consider (in no particular order) as you look to build frequency in a fragmented world.  

  1. As new media channels emerge — or existing ones shift to ad-supported viewing (maybe in 2024 you CAN advertise during “Stranger Things”) —  it’s important to stay up to date on available opportunities to get your message out there.
  2. Know your audience. Maybe your customers aren’t even on TikTok (or know what it is), so following the trend doesn’t suit your needs.
  3. Keep content a major consideration when selecting media channels and earmarking investment. Reserving budget for lucky touchpoint #7 (or #13) at the bottom of the funnel is just as important as spending to break through the clutter with touchpoint #1.


Need assistance in determining the right paid media mix for your brand? Reach out to our team of paid experts at [email protected]