At one point or another, we all have browsed the internet, Facebook, or any other online source and have been pelted with digital advertisements whether we wanted them or not. Most of us have been hit with certain ads so many times that we become numb to the company serving those ads. Currently, I see this the worst on Hulu, where I have seen the same 4 ads on rotation for weeks no matter what show I elect to watch. Ford you are driving me crazy and no I’m not in the market for a new vehicle, I just want to watch It’s Always Sunny in peace. This issue begs some important questions. How many ads are too many? Are we wasting our digital ad budgets on too many impressions? All questions that have specific answers to the product or service being advertised. This blog post may not answer those questions, however, it will give you the tools to understand what frequency capping is and how to control it within a few of the major online platforms.
What is frequency capping?
Ad frequency is the number of times your advertisement appears in front of a user in a given day, week, or month. Depending on what is being advertised, where in the sales funnel, or business lifecycle this product or service is will determine how many times your ad should show up. Why is this important? For starters, advertisers do not want their ad to appear too frequently causing ad fatigue. On the other end of the spectrum, if your ads are not appearing often enough, this can lead to wasted placements and a weaker level of awareness. Frequency capping is a way to manage how many times your ads appear in front of an individual. Most platforms have pretty simple ways to manage ad frequency at multiple levels giving advertisers plenty of control.
Starting with the leader in online ads and the platform used most across digital advertisers, we have Google Ads. The first major note with frequency capping in Google Ads is that you can only apply these caps to display and video campaigns. Since search campaigns are intent-based, we cannot control a simple frequency cap setting on how many times our ads appear in front of a single user.
For display and video campaigns, frequency capping is hosted in the settings of your campaign. Navigate to the settings, choose the additional settings dropdown, and it will be the 4th option down past your budget. Within the frequency capping selector, you can choose between setting your own limit or letting the Google algorithm take control for you. Most elect to let Google take the reins but if you prefer the control or have strict goals, then manually setting your frequency will be the right option.
Google Display & Video 360
Moving onto DV360, we have programmatic frequency capping. Following the same principals as Google Ads when it comes to display and video placements, there is a slight expansion as to the inventory you can cap. Any inventory that you can programmatically purchase on the platform can be controlled, unlike Google Ads. This allows for frequency capping across more types of placements. DV360 also allows for multiple levels of frequency control. There is the insertion order level and the line item level, and the insertion order overarches the line item. So at a grand scale, we can limit our ads to a certain number of touchpoints per time unit, then at the line item level, we can break apart those touchpoints across our ad and audience types.
Frequency controls in DV360 are very similar to that of Google Ads with the only difference being that there is no automated aspect to help take control. The main difference, noted in the above section, is that there is control at multiple levels. Advertisers can create a number of options that meet their frequency needs. Following the above image as an example, at the insertion order level I could cap my frequency to 10 showings per week. Then at the line item level, I can limit that specific audience to seeing up to 5 showings in a day. This set up would then allow for either 10 spaced out impressions across the week or 2 days with 5 impressions each.
At this point, we have a pretty good understanding of frequency capping and how to control it in Google. The Amazon DSP platform is no different when compared to DV360. There are 2 levels to control your capping and there is no automated option to help with that control.
Finally, we reach the platform that either gives you full control of your ad frequency or leaves you clueless on how to adjust this metric. Starting with the simpler way, if you choose a reach and frequency campaign then you will have the options available in the image below. Facebook gives a solid mix between automated selections and manual selections. There is even a hybrid selector at the bottom that will make your manual cap a little more aggressive.
If we were to choose any other campaign format that is not a reach and frequency, then our frequency capping gets a little more complex. Keeping it simple to start, your audience size and budget will be the biggest factors influencing your overall frequency of a campaign. High budgets with small audience sizes will yield a high frequency and vice versa. So, to adjust the frequency, either lower your budget or increase your audience size in the example above. Another way to aid high frequencies is to cycle or swap out creative. By either swapping creative on a schedule or when frequencies get too high you can effectively lower that frequency since new ads are not counted in the current frequency number. Sticking with creative, dynamic creative in Facebook allows for multiple messages and image combinations across a single “ad”. This ad is dynamic with many variations, so theoretically, it will have a lower frequency since it is not one ad showing time after time.
Depending on the platform, frequency capping can be as easy as choosing a limit within a time frame to pulling multiple levers and waiting to see changes over time. Either way, it is still important to stay on top of and to manage across all of your digital advertising efforts. If you would like a walk-through of frequency capping within the platforms mentioned on this blog post, please tune into Hero Academy Live next Thursday, August 29th where you can also learn to improve your ad copy with Microsoft’s Purna Virji and gain a better understanding of Google Ads ad extensions with Hanapin’s Elliot Kemp.