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Solving the Ad Frequency Capping Conundrum

When you turn to modern media outlets, brand protection isn’t just about avoiding scandals and bad customer service. It’s about continually striving for positive interactions rather than annoying, frustrating, or boring ones. 


Unfortunately, increased media consumption across OTT/CTV platforms means it’s harder than ever before to avoid something called “ad fatigue.” HubSpot defines ad fatigue as:

“Ad fatigue occurs when your audience sees your ads so often that they become bored with them and stop paying attention.”

But it gets even more challenging when those ads are unskippable six-second increments or entirely unskippable commercials. When the same individuals see your client’s products and advertisements too often, the experience becomes boring. Then it becomes annoying and potentially negative. 

Show too many of the same ads to the same person and your target market could be increasingly hostile to your brand and dread your ads. When you evaluate your OTT campaigns and see a rapid dropoff of engagement and conversions after too many touchpoints, ad fatigue may be the cause. 

Ad frequency capping is one answer.

In this article, we’ll explain what ad frequency capping is and how it works in OTT/CTV advertising. Then we’ll briefly discuss the dangers of ignoring frequency capping and — most important of all — the benefits you and your clients both get from strong frequency capping protocols.

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What Is Frequency Capping?

Frequency capping is a mechanism that lets a campaign administrator cap the number of times a viewer can see the same ad. Frequency capping gives marketers granular control over frequency. Combined with setting the right reach variables, marketers can fine-tune their ad campaigns based on their goals and their audience’s sensitivity.

It’s crucial to remember that overall campaign ad frequency should be determined on an individual basis specific to the campaign, its audience, and the product or service being advertised. Some campaigns may benefit from high frequency while others must learn to cap their frequency.

Programmatic access to streaming television platforms allow digital marketers to have fine-tuned control over their audience pools. That means they can reach the right demographics of their target market with increasing accuracy over time. However, as audiences watch more and more programs within concentrated niches, the frequency with which they see a company’s advertisement potentially grows. 

Some companies with larger budgets can address the issue by having multiple ads within the same campaign. However, this still leaves audiences watching the same basic message — at the same basic position in the customer journey — multiple times per day

Frequency Capping in the OTT/CTV Space

Traditional marketing in television and radio didn’t allow for individual-based frequency capping. Instead, marketers had to rely on generalized guesses about their population reach and the odds of a viewer or listener already hearing an ad during a segment of time. But the OTT/CTV space is different. When users are curating their own content queues and smart algorithms are recommending or even deciding the next video, marketers can give a personalized experience. Not only is this a great opportunity, but the risks of not doing so are severe.

The Dangers of Overexposure

1. Repetition Turns Into Harmful Impressions

The second time a viewer sees an ad is important. It spurs recognition, and viewers are partially familiar with your message. Familiarity and recognition are positive elements in marketing. However, every advertisement has a threshold. Depending on the target audience and entertainment level of your ad, viewers will eventually experience ad fatigue and become disengaged with your efforts. 

2. Wasted Money

Even worse, those negative interactions are eating into your ad budget. If you’re paying for every partial or complete view, then there’s a high opportunity cost to your ability to expand your reach. Even if you don’t want to expand, cutting back on frequency can let your campaign last longer (or save you funds for the next campaign) at the same total cost.

Self-service vs managed service comparison chart

Enter Frequency Capping

How to Limit

Depending on the controls in the platform, marketers can toggle the frequency cap by:

  • Hourly caps (when the risk of ad fatigue is very high and the campaign only contains one ad)
  • Daily caps
  • Weekly caps
  • Set time windows: Your ads may perform best during a certain time of day. Meal prep subscriptions, for example, may get the most conversions if they air right as viewers are likely to start prepping dinner. But those same ads may get much less value during late-night binge-watching.

This is where understanding your audience becomes incredibly crucial. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to frequency capping; it all depends on your audience, your product/service, and the ad itself.

One campaign might benefit from targeting an audience member multiple times per day if they are utilizing their OTT platform frequently, but other campaigns may produce more successful conversion rates if those frequencies are limited. Testing and adjusting these strategies is the only way to find the perfect balance.

Benefits of Limiting

1. Less Ad Spend

At its core, overexposure to ads is a waste of your marketing budget. You’re talking to unresponsive audiences, and curbing the number of advertisements caps your spend. It also saves you marketing money when you try to recapture hostile audiences later.

2. Less Ad Fatigue

Ad fatigue is bad for business. Frequency capping lets you mitigate it for individual viewers without putting hard generalized limits on your entire campaign. This is one of the biggest benefits of marketing in online spaces that interact with individual viewer data points.

3. Control Over the Frequency Sweet Spot

As we briefly discussed, you can control the values in each of the variables for frequency capping. Over time, you can create unique profiles based on A/B testing so you can apply the best-fit frequency capping preferences in your future campaigns.

Final Thoughts on Ad Frequency Capping — and How to Get Started

Ad frequency capping prevents ad fatigue and wasteful spending. You can create the sweet spot for your audience — and your audience subsets — so you can fine-tune spending and get just the right number of touchpoints for optimal conversion. At Strategus, we specialize in helping digital marketers optimize their OTT and CTV advertising. Contact us today to see how we can help protect you and your clients’ brands from ad fatigue and the resulting apathy or hostility.

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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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