Here’s What Frequency Caps Get Wrong – And How to Improve Them

Tim van Rijt
Tim van RijtImplementation Manager OperationsMore about Tim

Programmatic media buying has made it easier than ever to get in front of your target audience at the right time and place. You want to take every opportunity for your advertising to be heard or seen and make impact, but there can be too much of a good thing. That’s why we have frequency caps, which limit the number of times a unique user is shown a specific ad within a certain time frame. Frequency caps can be a tricky thing to get right. As an advertiser, too low a frequency could see you fail to win the attention of your consumer, miss out on clicks and conversions, or be forgotten. On the other hand, if they see your ads too many times or for too long, you could alienate interested consumers by becoming annoying or intrusive.

As it stands, most DSPs (the technology used to buy the right ad slots) only support frequency capping on the number of impressions served. A common set-up might be a frequency cap of 15 impressions for the duration of the campaign, with a maximum of three impressions per day and one per hour. The idea is that after 15 impressions a user is over-exposed, and if they haven’t yet interacted with your ad after seeing it 15 times it’s unlikely that they will.

This sounds good in theory, but it assumes that all impressions are equal, which is rarely the case. Due to viewability (according to IAB standards, a qualified in-view impression is 50 percent in-view for at least one second) and the way a person interacts on a webpage, the quality of impressions differs greatly from one to the next.

How user behaviour can affect viewability

Each user can have vastly different browsing habits and behaviours online, and similarly, behaviours can also be affected by what type of content someone is viewing. While one user might scroll through a page very quickly or instantly navigate away, another might be very thorough and take their time to read or view everything on the page. This makes a big difference when it comes to ad viewability. Say your campaign has a frequency cap of 15 per user, the first user might only see half of those ads due to quick navigation. Ads that are in-view are likely to be in-view for only a few seconds. The second user would probably have a higher in-view percentage and it’s likely that when an ad is in view that it will stay in-view for a longer period. Yet with a frequency cap based on the number of impressions served to a unique user, these impressions are treated the same.

Swap frequency caps for total exposure time

The solution is to apply frequency caps based on the exposure time of your campaign, rather than a fixed number of impressions. Exposure time evolves the black and white question of viewability (whether or not an ad was in-view) to how long an ad is in-view to a unique user. Exposure time empowers you to treat consumers equally and ensures they see your campaign for an optimal amount of time, regardless of how many impressions are served, the in-view percentage, or user behaviour. This helps reduce the waste caused by over-exposure, while preventing excluding consumers who might actually still be interested in the offer of our campaign being cut off early.

In order to still reach the speed-scrollers and page bouncers for a decent amount of exposure time, campaigns can be optimised to focus on impressions that are likely to be in view for a longer exposure time. This increases the overall viewability of the campaign, along with the performance, such as clicks and conversions.

At Bannerconnect, we’ve extensively researched the benefits of exposure time and have found that optimising the exposure time of a campaign can lead to a higher click-through-rate (CTR), while lowering the cost-per-action (CPA).

Save your media budget

Inefficient frequency capping can be costly in wasted media spend if you’re continuing to serve impressions to users who are outside the optimal frequency range. Optimising your contact frequency on exposure time can lead to massive savings on media spend as you’re paying for ads with a longer exposure time that get more attention, rather than two-second impressions that fail to register with your audience. Not only that, but you may find that by delivering your ads based on time, you might need fewer impressions to reach your frequency cap, as the quality increases the more clearly your message gets across.

Just as exposure time has evolved viewability, frequency caps should follow suit in order to be more effective and logical. It’s much more efficient, cheaper, and makes for a better user experience to cap your campaign at a certain exposure time, rather than number of impressions served. Not all impressions are equal; exposure time helps level the playing field by creating more consistency in how your campaign is seen.

Talk to Bannerconnect today to go beyond frequency capping with Exposure Time

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