Ad Fatigue: What it is, and How to Avoid it

MediaGo Staff | 03/12/2021

Ad fatigue. Banner blindness. At some point in their career, many advertisers will come face to face with this monster. But don’t despair! Ad fatigue can be overcome with a few strategic adjustments to your campaign.

Ad fatigue tends to happen after a campaign has been running successfully for a while. Out of nowhere, you notice that your CPC rates have suddenly skyrocketed. What happened? Well, the answer is: nothing. And in this case, nothing (in other words, inaction) is a bad thing. 

The same ads have been repeatedly displayed to the same group of prospects over a long time period, with no adjustments made to the creative or copy. This has caused people to grow bored with the ads and tune them out. 

Ad fatigue has real consequences. CTR has been shown to decrease significantly every time the same ad is repeatedly shown to a user. It’s a compounding effect that has the potential to destroy a campaign and eat up your marketing budget. To make matters worse, if the problem goes unaddressed, it could negatively impact the way consumers perceive your brand – thus hurting your future campaigns.

Thankfully, there are concrete steps you can take to drive your CPC back down to a reasonable level. Here’s how to get on the right track.

Step 1: Confirm the problem

The first step to combatting ad fatigue is to properly identify it. Have your ads been running for a while without any targeting adjustments or changes to your copy or creative? Do you have a high display frequency? Did your CTR start out well, and then suddenly drop off a cliff? If all of the above are true, then it’s likely you’re suffering from ad fatigue. Time to take action.

Step 2: Adjust your settings

The easiest and most straightforward next step is to change your ad display frequency. Many ad platforms allow you to set a frequency cap, which is the number of a times a unique user will be shown a specific ad in a day. The widely-accepted industry benchmark is 3x per day, which is written as “3/24”.

Another straightforward adjustment you can make is to implement dayparting. Dayparting allows you to schedule your ads to display only on certain days or certain times of day. This can result in your ads being shown to a different set of consumers within your target audience, thus minimizing the chance that the same person sees the same ad over and over again.

Step 3: Refresh your materials

If you haven’t involved your marketing team yet, now’s the time. Let’s say you’ve tried Step 1 and Step 2 above without seeing any clear improvement. In this situation, it’s time to create ad sets composed of different combinations of creatives and copy. This will allow you to run a series of different ads concurrently to weed out are high performers from the flops. This is known as multivariate testing.

If you operate a small e-commerce website and don’t have the budget for large-scale testing, there are still ways to test your ads and improve their performance. Simple tweaks like reversing the image on your ad creative or changing up the color scheme can help identify problems with your ad and point you in the right direction.

Step 4: Make additional tweaks

It’s possible that you’ve simply overstayed your welcome with a specific audience segment on your publisher’s website. If that’s the case, you can try tweaking your targeting options to reach a lookalike audience that might be receptive to your product. If your publishing partner has a limited audience scope, consider using different publishers with audiences that haven’t yet been exposed to your ad.

You can also consider trying a different placement on the same publisher website. Different placements perform differently, and you might be able to improve your ROI simply by changing where your ad appears. That being said, keep in mind that the most highly visible placements are always more expensive. 

Step 5: Let’s start over

If all else fails, it may be time to redesign your ads from the ground up. This doesn’t mean you’re throwing in the towel – far from it. Instead, consider it as an opportunity to start over with a new campaign that has an even higher chance of achieving a great ROI. 

You’re now in the position to learn from your previous campaigns – what worked and what didn’t – and use those findings to make a more effective ad with an eye-catching creative and stronger copy. You may even want to take a step back and conduct additional market research to see if anything has changed in your target audience over the past weeks or months. Chances are, you’ll learn something constructive.