MLS Formulas – Finding Reach and Frequency
As professionals in the media industry, we’ve all been taught there is one inherent marketing truth when it comes to Reach and Frequency. That is, Reach times Frequency equals Gross Rating Points (GRP). Simple enough, right? So, if we are given two of those three elements, we can easily find the third. However, this is not the case when it comes to media planning. Since we are working with future numbers, we do not know all three of these variables. In fact, the only numbers we can really be sure of are previous rating points for the performance of a TV show. Using these, we are able to predict our GRP.
Now that we have GRP, it is time to determine our Reach and Frequency. Suddenly, there is a dilemma. That simple formula everyone knows does not hold up in this situation, as there are an infinite number of combinations our Reach and Frequency could multiply together to reach a specific GRP. This is where it gets really tricky. Any number of quick web searches to locate Reach or Frequency formulas will lead to frustration, since each formula will appear to be only some reiteration of the original formula you already know. What’s worse is that even after thinking you finally found “the one”, you’ll ultimately realize it’s just another formula that requires you to know either Reach or Frequency in order to get the other.
This is the predicament Media Link Software™ found itself in when we started programming our product. By now you are probably thinking, “other software systems find Reach and Frequency – surely that formula is not proprietary”. You are right. What accountability can we hold our media buying software to if we don’t even know how it produces the numbers it does? Yet, each software company keeps their Reach and Frequency formula close to them, like some trade secret.
If you are thinking to yourself, “hmm that doesn’t seem right…,” we couldn’t agree more. Media Link feels these formulas should be open for discussion. No one should have to spend months trolling through academic journals and contacting various professors and media names, like we did, just to uncover one formula that produces two numbers all media buyers use. In our quest, we also found these professors are aware a greater formula exists. However, we were told they do not teach it to their students, since the math may be over their students heads. As a result of this dumbing down process, we have generations of marketing students entering into media buying who are unaware of this formula’s existence.
It’s time to take a stand. Media Link will be posting all its current formulas in an effort to spark an open discussion. Our Reach and Frequency formulas have been derived from researching academic journals and incorporating our own knowledge of statistics in order to produce a formula we have tested against other systems, to verify that it produces similar results. However, we don’t think this is enough. There is still much progress to be made to ensure one standard formula comes into place that provides the most accurate Reach and Frequency. There is too much variation between systems in this matter, and we feel it’s time for the industry to make the next step in standardizing its formulas so everyone is finally on the same page. Only then will the work we do be considered truly accurate.
Please keep an eye out for our next post, which will highlight our current reach and frequency formulas.