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Ad Fatigue Kills Your Campaigns. We’ve Found the Solution.

For digital advertisers with big ambitions, campaigns are often about a big idea. Unfortunately, without sustained creative execution, it’s almost impossible to get big results. The reason is simple: target audiences get saturated. Prospects see the ad again and again, resulting in what Facebook calls “ad fatigue”.  This article takes a detailed look at ad fatigue, and shows you how to stop it dead.


What is Ad Fatigue, what causes it, what are its effects and how do you root it out?


FB Combat Ad Fatigue


I think Facebook defines ad fatigue pretty succinctly in the above image.


When everyone in your target audience has already seen your ad many times, it becomes more expensive to achieve desirable results.”


And what causes that fatigue?  Well of course it’s the old way of doing creative execution.


You know what I’m talking about: Plan the campaign, build creative, buy media against the creative, wait for creative to stop performing, and then keep spending because what else are you going to do? And then finally end the campaign with a whimper (not a bang!).


Ad Fatigue Image 1


So what happens? You started planning the campaign in March, which stretched into April. The campaign finally launches with a bang in May, and everything looks great well into June… But then, slowly, everything changes. The target audience gets saturated as all target users have seen your ads dozens of times – and so they stop clicking, and start getting annoyed. You know when this happens to you – you start to feel like someone is stalking you.




Peek-a-boo headhunter here makes me feel like someone is stalking me…


This is very nicely illustrated by one of my favorite charts from a detailed look at frequency by our friends at AdEspresso.


Ad Fatigue Image 2


As you can see in the above chart, as frequency ( the average number of times a user has seen your ad), goes from 1 to 2, Cost Per Click goes up by 50%. So how can you execute and monitor campaigns to watch out for this, and save money on media? After you set a creative live, first try to establish a baseline CTR. Then start watching and working on Frequency – read on to learn how!


What levers do advertisers have on optimizing frequency?


There are three major levers:


  1. Audience size – the fewer people you target, the faster all of them see your ads.


  2. Budget – the more money you spend, the faster you will cover your audience (again and again).


  3. Number of creatives – the more ads you have to show, the less likely it is for someone to see the same one on their next impression.


Generally our audience size and budget are pretty fixed. That leaves us with only one real lever to pull in order to achieve a lower frequency – expanding the number of creatives.


What’s the best way to plan for creative refueling?


We can either create a lot more ads at the outset of the campaign and wait for it to go stale and then swap, or we can produce creative continuously and adjust it based on feedback from actual campaign data (of course this is my preferred way to do it).


I believe that front-loading the design of creative has some big negative consequences:


  1. You might design too much or too little creative


  2. Your creative team needs to do a lot of repetitive work


  3. You have no feedback loop on your creative — you can’t drive better creative with new campaign data as time goes on.


There are three main benefits of creating new creative periodically:


  1. The core creative execution can be separated and a specialized variation and iteration function can be introduced, lowering costs and freeing up core creative team for higher value tasks.


  2. Variation can be run iteratively, feeding back learning from user behavior over the course of a campaign into the creative refueling process.


  3. Triggering refueling based on campaign KPIs, like hitting a CTR, CPA, CPI or Frequency threshold can inform the optimal time to refuel.


ReFUEL4 automates the creative variation and iteration process


Ad Fatigue Image 3

At ReFUEL4, we’re completely focused on this problem, and we’ve worked out what we believe is the optimal process, as illustrated above.


Now let’s look in depth at how this process works. I’m going to pick the crux of the illustration here.

White dot

Each one of these white dots is a re-briefing point. The re-brief is triggered by one of your KPIs hitting a threshold.


For example, you can tell the system to re-brief designers and refill your creative queue when Frequency goes above 2. We will then plug your Facebook ad account into the Shaka Engine (our big data crawling, AI learning machine), and then when your Frequency approaches the threshold, we’ll brief a team of designers and replace the old ads automatically.


On the outside it sounds simple, but it’s really quite a complex machine. Maybe that’s why we won Facebook’s prestigious Innovation award this year, and our clients include top direct response advertisers like Spotify, Clash of Kings and Ebay, as well as little guys who are crushing it, like Instamotor and One Delivery.


Of course you too can crush it.  Just sign up for our enterprise solution or our new self-served SMB solution.

Facebook® is a registered trademark of Facebook Inc.

Alex Miller

Alex Miller is the product lead at ReFUEL4. Previously Alex spent 10 years in China freelancing jeep tours, translation and photography, as well as building China's first social advertising platform at Renren.com. He then spent 3 years in Silicon Valley, where he founded/cofounded 3 funded startups.

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