Ad Math: What is Reach? | - IQ Agency Ad Math: What is Reach? |
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Ad Math: What is Reach?

Reach is the number or percentage of people in your target audience reached by a single exposure – such as a radio spot, banner, or commercial – in a specified period of time. Most media companies will make their reach metrics available to you and there are actually rules, by the Advertising Research Foundation, that guide how they should be estimated.


We define an exposure as an opportunity for members of the target audience to see or hear a particular ad. However, this does not mean that the target audience actually sees or hears the ad. For example, you may be running an ad on TV, but that doesn’t mean that the target audience sees it. When a member of the target audience actually sees or hears an advertising message, then this is considered as an impression or a view.

For example, let’s assume that there are 10 households in a particular market. Five of the households are exposed to a company’s advertisement one or more times. Since the total market is ten households, and five are exposed, the reach is 50%.

Knowing reach enables marketers to more effectively select the media vehicle that best captures the target audience that they’re seeking. The actual reach data may vary depending on the time of day, channel, and your content – especially in the case of print publications – so the role of a marketer is to determine what is the most effective reach that can be achieved for your investment.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that reach does not actually measure impressions, only that the person was in the vicinity of your message. An ad in a magazine counts as an exposure to everyone receiving the magazine whether they read it or not. A 30-second TV commercial counts as an exposure even if your prospective customer was in the bathroom at that time. …sorry, but it’s true.

A TV commercial playing in an empty room. Sad...still counts though.

A TV spot playing in an empty room. Sad…still counts though

If this helped shed some light on reach for you, please visit our YouTube channel and give the video a quick “Thumbs Up”. While you’re there subscribe to our channel where we’ll release a new Ad Math video each week. For a companion post to this one on frequency click here.

Lastly, if you have a marketing metric that you’d like us to discuss in an upcoming video let us know by adding it in the comments.

p.s. check out our Guide to Paid Advertising, where you can download our cheat sheet to the best channels for digital advertising.

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