The Right Way to Fight Ad Fatigue
By Caroline Watts
It’s inevitable: over the course of an ad campaign, performance will decrease if you run the same creative the entire time. Regardless of how well the creative does initially, over time, performance will always decrease—and it probably happens sooner than you think.
Fortunately, there is a simple solution for ad fatigue, but it probably isn’t the one you’re using right now. Most marketers are aware of ad fatigue and attempt to slow it down it in one of two ways: rotating creative at or near the end of a campaign and frequency capping. But the best way to get in front of fatigue is by running regular experiments with dramatically different ad ideas. When you test your ads continuously, you can preempt ad fatigue and keep performance increasing over time.
The Truth About Ad Fatigue
In one recent campaign that launched without any creative tests live, we found performance began to decrease in as little as two weeks.
Many marketers develop a set of new creatives once per quarter, on average. More ambitious advertisers might release a couple of new ads once a month, but fatigue sets in sooner than that—which means that you’re still wasting money on un-optimized ads that aren’t attracting your audience’s attention.
Change Blindness and Frequency Capping
Another mechanism for dealing with ad fatigue is frequency capping. The rationale here is that your target audience has seen and understood the offer, and those who were interested engaged and those who weren’t interested didn’t engage. The assumption here is that the user saw the ad and absorbed your message—and that’s a big assumption.
A much more common explanation for ad fatigue is change blindness. Once a consumer has seen an ad, it becomes more and more likely to fade into the background, because our brains hardwired to ignore the things that we’re used to seeing. This phenomenon has nothing to do with disinterest in the ad’s offer. The consumer glanced at the ad a few times and became immune to it, without ever truly engaging or absorbing your message.
Solving for ad fatigue caused by change blindness is easy: regularly add visually distinct creatives into the mix. As long as the new, rotating ads look sufficiently different from one another, they won’t be invisible to your target audience.
Thinking Differently About Creative Testing
When it comes to testing, you probably know that small changes can drive huge results. But while making small tweaks can increase your conversion rates, it won’t do anything to combat change blindness.
Does that mean that experimentation isn’t a solution to ad fatigue? Hardly. Creative experimentation works when it is continuous and combines those small changes (minor iterations) with the introduction of visually distinct and highly differentiated creatives.
Successful marketers continue to keep creative performance maximized by continuously testing new concepts to fight fatigue, and then, once a concept winner has been found, testing iterations in order to drive even more performance gains.
Ad fatigue is a major problem for all marketers, but you can get ahead of it by incorporating visually distinct creatives into your regular creative testing.