Frequency Capping: Increase Efficiency and Reduce Consumer Irritability

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Brands are running the risk of appearing intrusive — irritating consumers through the overexposure to programmatic ads while potentially diluting their budgets. This can happen when advertisers use multiple DSPs that continually serve the same ad to the same user, or because the consumer uses several platforms and devices, creating a different user ID on each. As marketers focus on viewability and engagement metrics in a constant quest to increase engagement and create a lasting impression on viewers, they need to be aware of programmatics Achilles heel – over-served ads lead to poor consumer experience and can actually have an adverse effect on campaign performance. Step in frequency capping.

Does frequency capping help find the ‘sweet spot’?

Frequency capping is nothing new in digital advertising. It’s the process that limits the number of times an ad is served to a particular user. By using unique identifiers across platforms and devices, brands and their advertising partners can ensure an individual is not over-exposed to a particular ad.  The trick is to find that ‘sweet spot’ between oversharing an ad, and not showing it enough for effective recall. This can be difficult and take time to refine – but that’s not the only reason there’s a general reluctance in the industry to adopt a process that’s proven to work.

More impressions = more results, right? Wrong.

Traditionally, campaign success is seen as delivering as many campaign impressions to the target audience as possible, which makes frequency capping counter intuitive. But an over-served ad is counterproductive.

Despite industry recognition that consumers demand better ad experiences, users often find themselves served with the same ad repeatedly, to the point of irritation.  When consumers become irritated with an ad, negative connotations are linked to the brand and when it comes to revealing what is annoying about online ads, users don’t hold back. If consumers are pushed too hard, they’re likely to block ads altogether – with eMarketer predicting 30% of US internet users will block ads this year – reducing the reach of any campaign.

A CMO study found that relevancy, frequency, and consistency were the top three factors that most impacted ad experience, with 71% of CMOs suggesting frequency capping is  important to the experience and  can limit ad fatigue. Frequency capping avoids ad bombardment, enhances consumer experience, and offers a simple fix to issues of poor ad recall and engagement.

It’s not about spending less, it’s about spending better

There is a further benefit that can’t be ignored in this competitive marketplace – media efficiency. Research shows that sales actually decline once an ad reaches the same person 40 times in a month. Because ad effectiveness decreases after a certain number of exposures, marketers are not only risking their target audience becoming irritated, they’re also wasting their campaign’s valuable resources.

By redirecting impressions to another consumer once the limit has been reached, frequency capping effectively increases reach – the ad is seen by a greater proportion of the target group, and the consumer targets are more engaged.

Of course, for marketers to execute on frequency capping, they need access to a wider pool of quality inventory. If they’re serving ads to more consumers less often, they need to be able to reach those larger audiences. This can be achieved by partnering with an ad exchange that combines scale with precision targeting, giving buyers first-look access to top-quality inventory and highly engaged audiences through direct relationships with premium publishers.

In it for the long haul

Implementing frequency capping into a marketing campaign will result in a number of benefits, but this is no short-term fix. The need to carefully fine-tune the level of the cap dependent on the audience, the timing and other factors, and then monitor responses and adjust accordingly, means it takes time to find that ‘sweet spot’. This is part of a long-term strategy, not a quick fix.

It’s tempting for marketers to plough their budget into the product research stage of the purchase funnel, to ensure their brand is seen in the first place. But this tactic ignores the other important stages of the funnel, where budget could be put to better use. If a frequency cap is implemented efficiently at the product research stage, the budget that would be spent without a cap, can then be put to better use further down the funnel, and therefore helping to make limited budgets stretch further.

Frequency capping is currently underutilized in marketing campaigns, and marketers are reticent to embrace a principal that goes against their fundamental drive for campaign scale. But when technology facilitates a scale that pushes the boundaries of acceptability for consumers, it’s time to step back and re-think. Quality beats quantity – and the brands who are prepared to take the time to implement a capping process will reap the long-term rewards of consumer engagement and brand loyalty – as well as efficient use of marketing spend.

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