Ad frequency is a critically important metric to watch during any digital advertising campaign. However, it rarely takes the spotlight. Compared to testing new targeting tactics and building eye-catching creative, frequency goes unnoticed when planning campaign strategy. But by strategically targeting the number of times an ad is served to users, campaigns can deliver strong brand recall and drive higher conversion rates. Not to mention, it helps ensure a good user experience throughout the buying process.
Ad frequency can make a campaign when done well, and ad fatigue can break a campaign when left unchecked.
What is ad frequency?
Ad frequency is defined as the average number of times a person is exposed to an advertising message over a period of time. Basically, it measures how many times someone in the target audience has had an ad served to them. As the marketing landscape continues to evolve, there is a new understanding of how ad frequency can inform a campaign’s effectiveness. More advertisers are focused on building campaigns that encourage consumers to recall the brand and engage with it, rather than just counting impressions or clicks. Ad frequency helps advertisers know how many users were reached and how many times.
Ad frequency is determined through a simple formula:
What is an optimum ad frequency?
Optimal ad frequency is tricky to define universally, as it varies considerably based on the advertiser and their campaign goals. Generally, marketers have been told “the rule of seven” is ideal. The rule suggests people needed to see an ad at least seven times, if not more, to resonate with the message and brand fully. Consumers in the digital age need to see an ad more times to process the message because the number of advertisement channels and media noise has substantially increased. When planning campaigns, targeting different channels or devices can help diversify how ads are shown to consumers, but more importantly, it allows advertisers the flexibility of increasing frequency.
Despite the rules, a lower frequency is not always a bad thing. A low frequency will ensure that a wider group of users is reached, while a high frequency narrows the reach and boosts users’ exposure. If frequency is too high (over 15), then users are most likely being spammed, annoying them, and ultimately damaging the brand. But if it is too low, users are not being exposed enough to take action on the campaign.
Ad resonance and intent increase with exposure and frequency until it hits the point where ad fatigue sets in and overwhelms the benefits of branding and resonance. Often, advertisers will look to increase frequency to help maximize their budgets but don’t think about the lasting impact that it could have on their brand. Therefore, frequency should be used thoughtfully.
What is ad fatigue?
Ad fatigue is when users see ads so often that they lose interest and stop engaging. A strong indicator of ad fatigue is when click-through rates drop as frequency continues to increase. This is a sure sign that the consumers who are being targeted are no longer interested in the ad being served.
Ad fatigue should be in mind when monitoring frequency. Ad fatigue can be spotted early on by noticing the drop in engagement, and adjustments can be made accordingly. The best way to combat this is with ad rotation. When evaluating a campaign’s performance, pull out underperforming ads and replace them with a new version of the ad. As the campaign continues, circulate the ads and keep content fresh for users. It’s important to conduct thorough testing and rotate ads for any campaign. Unique target markets will have unique thresholds for their optimal frequency.
Optimizing campaigns for ad frequency and reach
Ultimately, there will be a balance between ad frequency and audience reach, depending on the campaign goals. In order to strike this balance, advertisers can set a frequency cap for their digital campaigns. Frequency capping limits the number of times a user will be exposed to an ad over a period of time. Similarly, impression caps can be set, which limit the number of unique impressions served in a single day or throughout the entire campaign. By refining the reach and frequency of ad campaigns, advertisers can protect their brand from ad fatigue while maximizing reach and budget. It also helps formulate strategies for the future that optimize marketing spend and give the best return on investment for different platforms.
Remember, there is no one size fits all strategy, and frequency is just another piece of the puzzle when it comes to optimizing campaigns. It’s a vital metric that is often overlooked, but when monitored and controlled properly, campaigns can reach audiences the right number of times to create a conversion. As optimizations are made, advertisers are able to engage users and build brand recognition that will stick without overstaying its welcome.
About the author:
Zack is a Content Specialist at Choozle – Easy Digital Advertising®. Always learning and connecting the dots, Zack helps translate some of the tougher answers to simple questions marketers ask themselves. Outside of the office, Zack loves hunting for old vinyl to add to his collection and picking up garbage on his favorite walking trails.