Fighting ad fatigue in a saturated content landscape: Advice from
Marketers and creatives from Recruitee, Urban Sports Club, Unmuted, CarNext, and Clearedin share their experience fighting ad fatigue and key advice they have for others when navigating the over-crowded content space.
Content Strategist at Storyteq
For many brands, premium creatives are a top priority – but not all campaigns are made equal.
We spoke to five marketing and creative leaders on what ad fatigue means for their advertising, their ideas, and the solutions they came up with to make their campaigns perform better.
What is ad fatigue?
According to HubSpot, ad fatigue occurs when your audience sees your ads so often that they become bored with them and stop paying attention. This causes campaigns to become less effective, prevents users from moving down the sales funnel, and ultimately hurts your company’s bottom line.
In a nutshell, when ad fatigue occurs, your click-through rate (CTR) drops as your frequency and the average CPC increase.
Ad fatigue, however, is not limited to the audience growing tired of your ads and not clicking on them anymore. We’re also seeing ad channels increase the cost of impressions to penalize advertisers for using the same creative for too long.
By constantly rotating your creatives, you can repurpose, recycle, or reshuffle various elements to give them new context. This way, you can turn an old creative into a new one, and, ultimately, help to combat ad fatigue.
If you’re short on time, here are a few quick takeaways:
- A combination of increasing CPC and decreasing CTR is considered a solid way of discovering ad fatigue. If your ad also has a high frequency, the diagnosis is almost certain.
- If you run the same ads for an extended period of time, your distribution will be slowed down by the Facebook algorithm in the first place. You want to acquire more traffic and reach out to the widest possible audience out there, so creative refresh is highly recommended.
- The colder the audience is, the lower the average frequency we’re looking to aim at should be. The idea here is that when you’re retargeting an audience, for instance, they will be able to handle a higher amount of impressions before ad fatigue kicks in.
- Periodic testing and optimization will anticipate ad fatigue but will also be beneficial to the overall campaign performance. Avoiding ad fatigue will have a positive impact on other factors such as on your quality score. Creating interactive ads will increase the engagement KPIs which will lead to a higher conversion rate and ROI.
- Dynamic ads will help you to increase the variety of the creatives which you are running in a very easy and fast way. Implementing a dynamic feed can be tedious but in the long run, it will make your life easier.
“Creativity is key but it’s also important to understand the momentum: “When is it the right time for a refresh?” You need to be fast but not fast enough to have collected enough signals for a creative to be replaced before they have reached their performance peak.”
Keeping a pulse on your campaigns
When analyzing campaigns’ performance, there are many factors that need to be considered.
A good data analysis allows a proper understanding of what is happening to your campaigns and why, since the causes of poor campaigns performance can be attributed to multiple factors.
Recognizing ad fatigue can be tricky but there are a few signals to look at – for instance, it’s important to look at engagement and performance metrics.
You can think of your campaigns’ performance as a cycle. After the campaign launch, some of the important metrics such as the impressions and the clicks will increase as they are going through the learning phase, then they will reach the peak. Later, you will notice a decline: lower CTR, fewer conversions, and lower engagement metrics.
What is happening? The reasons can lie in ad fatigue due to wrong campaigns set-up, wrong audience, low budget, lack of ad rotation, poor ad creativity, lack of testing or ad refresh.
At this point, your ads are either being shown less (lower reach or impressions), or your audience is ignoring them (lower CTR and engagement metric) because they have seen it too often.
In a time where the attention span has become smaller and smaller, it’s crucial to act fast and encourage content engagement.
Rescuing your target audience from ad fatigue
The first important step to take is to analyze your data. A deep analysis will tell where actions need to be taken. Testing and optimizing will do the rest, they will especially help you to avoid ad fatigue and collect important data points.
Testing optimization can be implemented at different levels:
- Change your campaign objective: It can help you find what best works for you. When it comes to Facebook, for instance, a reach and frequency campaign can help you set a lower ad frequency and avoid ad fatigue.
- Analyze your audience: Your campaign might have reached audience saturation or is experiencing ad overlapping. Most platforms offer internal tools for a deeper analysis.
- Optimize your visuals: Running many versions of your ads, replacing offers, design, images, and CTAs, will help you understand what works best for your business and what is more appealing to your customers.
- Diversify your ads: Running different ad formats, coming up with new concepts, diversifying the ideas, and testing new custom audiences are some of the ways to go. Creativity is key here. However, it is also important to understand the momentum. Ask yourself: “When is it the right time for a refresh?” You need to be fast but not fast enough to have collected enough signals for a creative to be replaced before they have reached their performance peak
- Go dynamic: Dynamic ads will help you to increase the variety of the creatives which you are running in a very easy and fast way. Implementing a dynamic feed can be tedious but in the long run, it will make your life easier.
Leverage the power of collaboration
Having a dedicated team to work through this is important. When this is not possible, it is still important to make sure that a few hours per week are dedicated to monitoring campaigns’ performance and working closely with the design and brand team and plan together. Working with cross-functional teams will help you to come up with new ideas, visuals, and creative concepts.
Advocate for period testing
Periodic testing and optimization will anticipate ad fatigue but it will also be beneficial to the overall campaign performance. Avoiding ad fatigue will have a positive impact on other factors such as on your quality score. Creating interactive ads will increase the engagement KPIs which will lead to a higher conversion rate and ROI.
Case in point: The Urban Sports Club example
At Urban Sports Club, our purpose is to inspire people to live a healthier and more active lifestyle. For this reason, we want to make sure that our creatives are inspiring and dynamic, just like our mission.
In the performance marketing team, we have our own creative hub. This is the space where we sit together and brainstorm about campaigns’ performance, to learn from the past, and implement the learnings into our future campaigns.
This approach includes working closely with the brand and design team. They work on new concepts and ideas, which will later be adapted to the specific performance channels since these have special requirements: they need to drive performance. We have a proper creative process in place, and this has allowed us to tackle one of our most successful campaigns.
We came up with a whole plan in different phases. The intervals between the phases were based on data analysis – the time to avoid ad fatigue. We have uploaded and scheduled the creative batches, which included many different formats and visuals, including dynamic ads. As a result, we have a constant click-through rate and outstanding results in terms of ROI.
By analyzing data and understanding the momentum, we have been able to refresh the creatives across all channels, to maintain consistency and improve performance.
“Competition for eyeballs and attention is fiercer than it’s ever been.”
Keep noticing the ad fatigue red flags
How do you measure boredom and apathy? Well, one of the first things you notice is that your results start to stagnate: CTRs are higher and CPCs are rising. You increase your ad spend but the needle still isn’t moving as much as before. You hit a wall: apathy, boredom, and indifference are the names of the game, – and even worse – your campaign is met with a resounding “meh”.
Develop your road to better performing ads
- Increase your reach over a longer period: This way, more people will see your ad over a much longer period.
- Cap the frequency: Run your ad on Tuesday or Wednesday; sometimes less is more so running it once or twice a week will optimize the ad delivery.
- Tap into holiday themes or news-jacking: These opportunities make your ads more relevant or topical. It’s a great way to spice up your ads.
- Refresh your ad creatives regularly: It can be as big as changing your campaigns completely or as simple as changing the color, images, or call to action.
It’s important to stay creative in this process. In the past, I used to have a scrapbook where I would collect and stick down things that inspire me – a scene in a movie that moved me, a song that made me cry, or a cartoon that made me laugh. I would use this scrapbook when I got stuck for ideas.
These days, I’m more tech-savvy so I have an “inspiration” bookmark on my browser, I sign up for newsletters, follow Instagram and Dribbble accounts, visit museum exhibitions and plays. I also try to discover new technologies and learn about their applications and then try to apply that the first chance I get.
Treat ad production as a long game
Competition for eyeballs and attention is fiercer than it’s ever been. I don’t know the exact number but I imagine that a person is exposed to thousands of marketing messages per day, so creating fresh creatives helps you stay top of mind in an oversaturated market.
Another benefit of creating new creatives periodically is that you can run A/B testing to see which messages resonate the best with your audiences which gives you valuable insights that you can apply to the next campaign you run.
Tap into hyper-personalization
Hyper-personalization is another cool tactic you can use to combat ad fatigue as it doesn’t require too many resources once you’ve set it up.
For example, in a previous role, we worked with Pathé Cinemas to drive visitors to the movies during winter. The ad message and visuals would dynamically change based on the temperature or weather conditions outside. This gave us hundreds of variants of our ad that were most relevant to our target audience.
We never thought of ad fatigue as the primary reason for doing it this way but it turned out to be a happy accident and a great way to combat that in a way that did not require a lot of time and resources.
“If you have processes in place that guarantee a regular output of new creative assets, this allows you to respond to changes in an ad campaign’s performance more quickly.”
Finding the signal in the noise
I think there’s a big difference in how to interpret certain performance reports, depending on the type of audience you’re targeting. I tend to approach this with a general rule of thumb that the colder the audience is, the lower the average frequency we’re looking to aim at should be.
The idea here is that when you’re retargeting an audience, for instance, they will be able to handle a higher amount of impressions before ad fatigue kicks in.
This is still a simplification, of course, as there are more variables to take into consideration, such as whether you’re using dynamic creatives, for instance. In general, you identify ad fatigue as a decreasing CTR and increasing CPC in the face of a rising average frequency for ads being shown.
Determine your success trio
Keep a close eye on your campaigns, and zoom in on each separate creative to see which ones are underperforming, i.e. identify early signs of ad fatigue and replace creatives where necessary.
Then again, you can also preempt issues by making sure you offer as many different creatives as possible per campaign from the outset.
At Unmuted, we believe it’s important to check in on your performance reports regularly. This helps you identify signs of ad fatigue as soon as possible, and lets you switch up ad creatives when necessary.
- “What kind of design teams do you work with? Are these in-house or external?”
- “What type of access does your advertising team have to these designers?”
- “And how skilled are they at designing creatives themselves?”
All these questions need to be factored in before you can decide on the best way to plan for creative re-fueling. And then there’s the question of what type of ads you’re running – how cold are the audiences you’re targeting, and how prone does this make them to ad fatigue?
Versatility is crucial
If you have processes in place that guarantee a regular output of new creative assets, this allows you to respond to changes in an ad campaign’s performance more quickly. This can be of great value, but equally resource-intensive, depending on your business and how reliant it is on advertising.
“While you want to avoid repetitive retargeting, one of the most effective ways to cure ad fatigue is to generate new creatives periodically.”
Fighting for consumers’ attention
Ad fatigue is a trap you don’t want to get into. It is not a secret to anyone that brands are continuously competing for consumers’ attention, so winning this fight is not only of great importance but vital for brands to connect and create meaningful relationships with their community.
Facebook itself is signalling ad fatigue as an important issue to be tackled with the creative fatigue status, so basically this happens when the algorithm establishes that the public has seen the same image or video too many times, resulting in a saturation of the public.
There are many ways to tackle ad fatigue with the two main ones being the creative refresh and widening the public. There are also other tricks that marketers use such as ad rotation, rewording, varying the call-to-action, even using different ad formats or dynamic ads in order to personalize the ad experience of the target audience.
Needless to say that video format is preferred over the static one as it is more effective, but always good to highlight as it never gets old.
Break free from monotony
While you want to avoid repetitive retargeting, one of the most effective ways to cure ad fatigue is to generate new creatives periodically.
If you run the same ads for an extended period of time, your distribution will be slowed down by the Facebook algorithm in the first place. You want to acquire more traffic and reach out to the widest possible audience out there, so creative refresh is the way.
Besides, people are easily bored and annoyed by the multitude of ads on social media and they change their preferences continuously, so the ad that was relevant to them one month ago might not be that interesting anymore to them and they may not respond the same way as before, affecting the ad performance.
So creative refresh can help you stay relevant, engage with your audience, and match the needs of your target audience.
However, it is important to highlight that creative refresh does not necessarily mean a complete and radical change of creatives. Even a small change, such as a new title, or a variation in the text over can make a difference.
Gain momentum with creative automation
Creative refresh from a bigger perspective is quite tricky to plan, if you think of the whole picture, from thinking which creatives you are planning to use for each funnel phase, the very early stage of coming up with a concept for the photo shooting to the actual campaign.
When Storyteq comes into play, it brings along huge help in terms of varying the content that has been produced at every level, in terms of language, ad copy, and format ad.
Creative refresh does not necessarily mean complete and radical change of creatives only. Even a small change, such as a new title or a variation in the text over the creative can make a difference. Storyteq is a fast and easy way to quickly update the creatives with no need to involve further professionals in the process, obtaining new creatives within seconds.
A big benefit is the capacity to create different formats for different placements – and that helps to deal with ad fatigue.
My personal favourite is the advantage to personalize and localize each creative with the copy in the relevant language, making customized ads for each market where a specific brand is operating.
“When you create new ads, it’s important to list the emotions behind your product’s unique ‘aha’ moments.”
Give creatives a breath of fresh air
It’s important to list the emotions behind your product’s unique “aha” moments. Remove any that are overrepresented in the target market’s ad universe. Check Google’s paid search and display ads (I use SEMrush for this), Facebook’s ad library, and “Posts: Ads” on Linkedin pages. Write crisp copy and use visually distinct creatives that pop!
Stay on top of design and marketing trends
You’ll find inspiration from designers (new visual experiences) and marketers (new messaging). You can start by finding “best ads”, “best presentations”, and “best designed websites” lists from this year.
Always be learning
You should regularly test copy and creative – the market is constantly evolving, and you want to keep pace. Plus, it keeps you on your toes.
Relaunching a SaaS product with Facebook ads
I ran a three-month product relaunch campaign with Facebook ads. The target market wasn’t huge, so ad fatigue was a risk. I varied our copy and creative with different USPs, illustration styles, background colors, and ad layout designs. The engagement was high, CAC was low, and people were happy.
These interviews were lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
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Content Strategist at Storyteq
Andreea is a content strategist at Storyteq and is passionate about writing, storytelling, and cross-functional collaboration. When she’s not busy typing away, you will always see her reading a good book.