In the world of television media buying, reach and frequency have long been considered the measure of an effective campaign. It has been debated which was the more important factor – reach or frequency – and what the proper amount of each is. (Spend too little, and you’re wasting your money because not enough people saw it and even if they did they only saw it once so they don’t remember it. Spend too much and you’re just throwing money away.) Of course, the “right” balance depends on a number of factors, but for the sake of this argument, let’s agree that most television buys generally produce more reach than frequency.

So, what’s a buyer to do in the age of on-demand program that is brought to the viewer with very little commercial interruption; usually just a single advertiser and a few network promos? How do we calculate the proper reach and frequency of such a buy? And is it possible to produce too much frequency?

If I’m watching an episode of my favorite show on-demand, and the single advertiser/sponsor has produced just one commercial that airs prior to the program starting, within each of 4-5 breaks, and again at the end, I pretty much hate that commercial by the end of the 45 minutes. Their reach is very low (exactly one person — as I’m watching), but the frequency is as high as six times within 45 minutes. Even in the new digital age, I can’t imagine that math works to produce measurable sales.

Plus, this kind of overkill does not endear me to a product; rather, I seem to form some kind of vague disdain for the product or service (and actors, music, etc. used in the spot) being hawked. By sponsoring on-demand broadcasts, the advertiser hopes I buy their product through one-on-one exposure to their ads, but sometimes the ads have the opposite effect, possibly delivering negative returns in the long-run.

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