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Know Your Limits: High-Frequency Advertising and Ad Fatigue


Know Your Limits: High-Frequency Advertising and Ad Fatigue. Modern media presents a huge opportunity for advertising. Marketers can reach increasingly specific markets with the right message and create tailored experiences for each of their target markets. 

Ad-supported OTT and CTV platforms are also increasingly popular. According to SpotX, “4 out of 5 streamers in the US watch ad-supported programming and 60% would prefer to watch free content over a paid ad-free service.”  

However, modern media also presents its own challenges. Because you can so tightly specify your targeting, you run the risk of overexposing your intended audience to the same commercial again and again. If you focus on increasing your high-frequency advertising campaigns instead of optimizing them, you pose a real risk of burning out your audience. 

In this article, we’ll explore why frequency (in moderation) matters, how to protect your brand while still reaching consumers, and what optimized high-frequency advertising looks like.

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Isn’t Frequency a Good Thing?

On the surface, frequency is something to strive for. The number of touchpoints and positive interactions you have with an individual consumer is a very decisive factor in the likelihood of them becoming your customer. 

Frequency drives familiarity with your brand, and that’s a good thing. However, it’s important to remember that the optimized frequency varies based on the campaign, product, and service.

Focusing on frequency without context is a mistake. There’s a significant difference between having positive interactions, each of which are retargeted or precisely laid out to lead shoppers to a purchase, and repeating the exact same experience. 

When the same viewers see your ad again and again, they may experience ad fatigue. This could cause them to block out your message, become apathetic to your ad, and ultimately remove themselves from the buyer’s journey.

Instead of playing the same ad as often as your budget allows for, as you might with traditional television or radio programming, it’s far better to include a variety of different ads in your CTV/OTT campaign and cap a viewer’s exposure based on their tolerance threshold. Then they view your message as much as possible — up to the point where the value starts to dip back down.

What Is High-Frequency Advertising?

High-frequency advertising is precisely what it sounds like: an advertising campaign where the marketer prioritizes frequency and risks over-exposing their audience to a repetitive ad

High-frequency advertising rose in popularity because of the risk of low-frequency advertising and not being noticed by your target market. However, overcorrecting and focusing on high-frequency numbers — despite all the benefits we discussed earlier — can ultimately create negative customer reactions. 

How do you know if your campaign is a “high-frequency” campaign?

Every brand is slightly different, and their target markets will all have a different threshold of how much is too much. By analyzing the data surrounding how your viewers respond to ads over time, you can map out when engagement starts to rise — which will happen as you enter the low end of the optimal frequency level — and when engagement starts to decline again — when you’re hitting ad fatigue among your viewers. Some factors that can change that ad fatigue point include:

  • The disruptiveness of your ad: Loud music, abrupt intros, and any abrasive features can shorten your audience’s tolerance for an ad. 
  • The length of your ad: Longer ads can irritate your viewers.
  • The variations of your ad in a single campaign: If you can, vary factors such as the setting, the speaker, and the details while still focusing on the same core message. 
  • The actual product or service: If your target audience is no longer interested in the product or service being advertised, they are more likely to become fatigued by your brand.
  • The context of the ad: Pushing all of your ads onto a single platform can lead to faster overexposure.

Many consumers use multiple different online media platforms throughout the course of the day. If your ad is spread out across YouTube, an OTT app, and a podcasting or music streaming app, even the same exact ad can be much less numbing; consumers are exposed to it in different contexts and at different points in the day. For example, if you cap frequency to three times a day, the single factor of ‘context’ can make a big difference:

  1. Viewers see the same ad three times within an hour or so of watching a program, or
  2. Viewers see an ad once on YouTube, once on their streaming service, and once as they’re driving and listening to music. 

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How to Optimize Frequency

Ultimately, frequency is going to be the biggest factor between optimal exposure and overexposure. Frequency capping is the mechanism you can use to set a maximum limit on how many times an individual audience member is exposed to your ad. Depending on the platform you’re using, you can fine-tune your frequency to:

  • Cap the number of times a specific ad or even a defined group of ads reaches a consumer
  • Modify the frequency based on different time limits and the categorization of the lead in your system
  • Test and adapt over time depending on the nature of your campaign 

Ultimately, setting a defined cap on how many times an ad reaches a consumer will reduce their risk of ad fatigue and a negative impression of your brand. Instituting a cap also allows you to control your ad spend to elongate the total campaign, drive more reach, or actually spend less for a total campaign without losing effectiveness

Controlling as many factors as possible helps you ensure a better experience both for your campaign’s target market and for the company that is advertising its products and services. Frequency capping serves as both damage control and brand nurturing, all at once.

Read more on advertising reach, frequency, and impact here

Strike the Right Balance on Ad Frequency With Strategus

Ad fatigue and high-frequency advertising pose real risks to your brand’s reputation and can sour relations between you and a potential lead — and even with a previous customer — quickly. Protect your brand against these errors with clear insight into your campaign’s frequency parameters and strict control over your frequency cap. Partner with Strategus to optimize ad frequency for short-term and long-term success.

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Andy Dixon is a seasoned Content Writing Specialist at Strategus, renowned for his expertise in creating engaging and impactful digital content. With over a decade of experience in content creation, Andy has honed his skills in a variety of niches, ranging from technology and marketing to education.

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