Ad Frequency: How Much is Too Much?
Remember the time you were sitting on the couch watching TV when THAT ad “comes” on again? You used to like that ad, even humming along to the catchy jingle in the beginning. But now, after seeing it a zillion times, that catchy jingle is grating your last nerve and before it can get two notes out you are lunging for the remote to click to a different program, any program, before subjecting yourself to one more viewing.
One piece of the advertising campaign strategy that is often overlooked is Frequency. In advertising, frequency refers to how often each unique user sees your ad. Frequency is determined by dividing the total number of ad impressions by your reach, the number of people who’ve seen your ad. So, for example, if you have 10,000 impressions and 5,000 unique users, on average, each user sees your ad 2 times.
Increasing your campaign frequency rates increases the number of times your ad is exposed to each person. While decreasing your frequency rates increases your initial reach and the number of unique people who see your ad.
Monitoring ad frequency is an important factor in your overall ad strategy. So, what is the ideal frequency rate? Generally, it is recommended that your target audience see your ad between 5 and 20 times for it to be effective. But what the optimal number is, is a difficult question to answer.
Frequency is a balancing act. Too much frequency can lead to ad fatigue and waste. Ad fatigue is when a user gets tired of seeing the same ad over and over again and is less likely to take action. Ad fatigue can even create a negative association with your ad, your product or even your company. In addition, showing an ad to users unlikely to take action is wasteful. Your advertising money could be spent on activities that are more impactful, or even saved!
On the other hand, too little frequency leads to less impactful ads and could decrease the overall effectiveness of the ad campaign. Not getting in front of your customers enough to make an impact or be memorable as a result of low frequency is a real problem.
The ideal ad frequency is subjected to a number of factors. The three most important factors in determining ad frequency are:
Medium of Delivery
Every advertisement has a goal, from generating brand awareness to a specific call to action. These goals can be visually represented as stages of the sales funnel. The stage of the sales funnel (i.e. the goal) of the advertisement plays a critical role in determining the ideal frequency rate.
Top-of-the-funnel advertisements want to draw attention and build awareness. One to two ad exposures per week are ideal at this stage. Your goal here is to gain attention and attract users, you are not focused on closing the deal, yet. Middle-of-the-funnel advertisements whose goal is to foster purchase consideration and evaluation would benefit from 3-10 ad exposures. When you are at the bottom of the sales funnel and you want to push users to close the deal and purchase your product, 10+ ad exposures might be necessary at this stage to secure the sale. You could also use the higher frequency when promoting a limited time offer or to remind customers whom you have interacted with in the past. On the flip side, a lower frequency rate can also be used to relay product exclusivity.
The medium used for advertisement also plays a part in determining the optimal frequency goal. Facebook ads recommends 2 exposures per week for 10 weeks. However, for TV advertising, it’s recommended 3 to 10 exposures per week for 10 weeks. While radio recommends 3 exposures per week. The number of mediums utilized in a campaign has an inverse relationship with your frequency rates. The more mediums the lower your frequency rate (for each medium) should be. If your same ad is displayed over multiple channels multiple times per day, ad fatigue will be a real problem.
The campaign’s duration also has a direct impact on frequency goals. Long-term campaigns should adopt a low-frequency tactic since users will be exposed to more over time, while short-term campaigns should increase frequency for that short period of time.
Determining the correct frequency rates for your ad campaign is a delicate balancing act with a bit of juggling thrown in. In short, there is no one size fits all answer. Some ad campaigns will benefit from a low-frequency rate, while others will benefit from a high-frequency rate. Each ad campaign and its goals need to be individually analyzed to determine its optimal frequency rate.