At RAMP, we get a lot of questions about numbers. Many of them are about the number of commercials to run. Often we hear, “How many spots do I need a week?” A variant of this is, “How many commercials should I have in a month to be successful?”

It’s important to get out of the “how many spots” mindset. It’s not about numbers – it’s about effectiveness. The number of commercials, known in the industry as spots, a practice needs to run can vary greatly depending on a variety of factors. Ten spots in Detroit are not comparable to ten spots in Bismarck. Fifteen spots on the highest rated station in town are often incomparable to fifteen spots on a low-rated station. Beware any formulas that you hear from “experts” that make it all sound very simple. If it were as easy as, “run fifteen spots a week on the highest rated station”, then that’s what everyone would do, and everyone would be wildly successful. There is no cookie-cutter solution.

The RAMP media buyers take several things into consideration when planning the frequency of commercials in an advertising campaign. Market size is the most obvious starting point, as we have bought commercials for our clients that range from $7 to $1200 per spot. The major markets broadcast to huge audiences – and in radio, you get what you pay for. A market of 10 million listeners costs much more than a rural market with only a few thousand. The large-market advertisers need to use techniques like co-op advertising, or tightly focused campaigns targeting very specific audiences to make the most of their money. Meanwhile the small-market practice will probably take advantage of multiple stations to reach as many prospective patients as possible.

Once market size is taken into consideration, a media buyer looks at the Arbitron “rankers” to determine which stations reach the target demographic most effectively. Factors such as “Time Spent Listening” (TSL), “Audience Composition”, and the difference between “Cume Persons” vs. “Average Quarter Hour Persons” are key considerations. Another key factor is “Fragmentation”, which is determined by the amount of stations in each market that share the demographic we are trying to reach. For example, if you want to reach women from 25 to 54, it is important to know how many different station target that demo.

There’s actually quite a complex array of variables that factor into decisions like, “How many spots do I need?” But, one constant in radio is this: It is better to reach a smaller audience many times, than to reach a larger audience a few times. Radio is a frequency medium that relies on repetition to perform best. However, you can bet that the biggest station in town will never share that bit of wisdom with you. But that’s business. Their salespeople are paid to make money for a station, not for your dental practice. Make sure that you have an objective source making decisions where your radio dollars a best spent.