Edelman Digital

5 Steps for Avoiding Ad Fatigue and Optimizing Ad Performance




“Ad fatigue” is a real issue for communicators and marketers, especially for those whose objectives are beyond general awareness and seek action or conversion. After an individual is exposed to an ad more than a couple of times, it becomes less effective with each repetition. This means that through the duration of the campaign, it can become more expensive to achieve the same result.

This however, can be mitigated by appropriate ad rotation and can be optimized through smart ad/message testing. The difficulty lies in determining appropriate ad rotation, as each brand will have a different audience and ad budget.

  1. Start with an audience-centric approach

    By clearly defining an audience, you can target them online with greater precision and determine the size of your addressable audience – the number of people on each platform you can expect to reach.

  1. Determine an appropriate ad rotation

    Once you determine your audience size per platform, you are then able to distribute your ad budget to ensure your audience size and impression distribution ratios make sense on each platform.

    Put simply, you can balance ad frequency per channel by dividing ad impressions by your addressable audience (500,000 impressions / addressable audience of 100,000 = average ad frequency of 5). For conversion-focused campaigns, you will likely want to aim for a lower frequency on awareness channels and a higher frequency on conversion channels.

  1. Develop a content calendar

    Knowing your addressable audience, impression loads and campaign duration, you are now able to determine an appropriate ad rotation cadence to ensure you don’t create ad fatigue. Build an ad calendar that allows you to refresh ads before you hit an average frequency of 3. Although the simplest way to do this is to create all ads at once and populate your content calendar ahead of time, this technique creates a huge missed opportunity – see point 4.

  1. Learn from previous performance

    Creating all campaign ad content before the first ad is shown to your audience will significantly hinder your ability to optimize the campaign’s performance. By using this approach, you can optimize campaigns by increasing impression loads to ads with better performance, but it can also create ad fatigue and performance of those ads will drop.

    Instead, you are better off creating a first round of content that encompasses several message types that you think will resonate with your audience. Once the campaign is live, you will be able to see which messages are performing best amongst your audience. When it comes time to refresh your creative, you are then able to create a next round of ads that focus on successful message types from the previous round.

  1. Optimize to the correct metrics

    When looking to optimize campaign performance, it is important to look at the right metrics. Paid media platforms help measure several elements of ad performance, but depending on your objective, some are far more important than others For example, if you have an action-based objective, you might think that driving a lot of people to a website is the best way to increase the number of people who take action. In this scenario, you would look at the click through rate (CTR) and cost per click (CPC). However, it is more important to reach the right audience at the right time rather than aiming for a higher volume.  For action-based campaigns, we look at metrics like action rate and cost per action. This allows us to identify which ads/messages are diving high volumes of visitors with fewer results, and which might be driving lower volumes with higher results.

Luis Betanzo is a paid media lead with Digital practice in Washington, D.C.

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