Digital Marketing Best Practices: Optimizing Advertising Frequency

by Nov 18, 2020

Frequency vs. Fatigue

Having just lived through the election season, we all understand the principle of frequency as it relates to advertising. The more an ad is repeated, the more likely you are to remember it. Political advertising takes frequency to the extreme, violating any principles of saturation that may exist. So, if too much advertising leads to fatigue or over-saturation, how much is enough?

Dispelling a Myth

A colleague asked recently, “Scientists don’t look at advertising, so why bother investing resources in it?” You could insert any profession in place of “scientists,” and my reaction would be the same. I would argue that Everybody looks at advertising. It’s too ubiquitous to ignore, it’s designed to catch attention, and it serves a purpose.

If we didn’t have advertising, how would we know what’s new? You could say “word of mouth” spreads information, but “word of mouth” is simply unpaid advertising. Social media spreads information, but advertising is prominent on social media platforms. New platforms and tactics offer more of the same advertising — just through different channels.

Consider the stages of the buyer’s journey: Awareness, Search, Consideration, Purchase. Advertising at any of these stages could change the outcome of a purchase if it’s persuasive. The advertising has to target the buyer. It has to attract their attention, it has to persuade them, and it has to be at the top of their mind. The mind thrives on repetition, which is measured by frequency. Note that frequency is not the same as redundancy. You can repeat the same message using different ads.

Your Age is Your Lens

It’s a fact of life that people age, and in fact, one could say that’s what life is all about — aging. Like death and taxes, everybody gets old if they get the opportunity. And throughout the aging process,  you carry a frame of reference with you based on your experiences, and the shared experiences of your generation. To some members of older generations, contemporary advertising tactics can be considered an invasion of privacy, especially when the focus is on permission-based advertising.

Buried in most contracts or online offers is an opt-in clause that allows the vendor to advertise or market to you, the customer, or to share your contact information with third-party marketers. While this may upset some audiences, younger generations,  or “digital natives,” have grown up with a different view of privacy, and they are much more tolerant of what other generations may call “invasive” advertising.

Once is Never Enough

If you have a product you want to sell, you need to advertise. To be effective, the advertising has to be clever, and it has to get the attention of your audience. Your ad has to appear contextually correct. While you could choose to advertise your new sequencer to a scientist on the Golf Digest website, it is not the most effective use of your resources.

The bottom line about frequency is that your ads have to be frequent enough to create recognition, but not so frequent that they annoy your audience. It’s a thin line between the two, and the complexity of your product must be considered as well when determining optimum frequency. Simple products can use simple advertising to get their message across. Complex products require more explanation. Elegant advertising takes the complex and makes it simple.

So, what’s the optimum frequency for advertising your product? Whatever it takes to elicit the response you want. The frequency will be bigger than one, and probably less than 100. The best way to determine optimum frequency is through trial and testing of your frequency, your channels, and your message(s).

Start by profiling your target customer. Then, optimize your channels, test your messaging, and budget for some reasonable amount of frequency and duration. Effective advertising takes time, but it does get results.


Why Frequency Matters

Facebook Advertising Frequency

Myth-Busters and B2B Communication Strategies for Different Generations

Apple Watch


If you need help with advertising planning or strategy, contact us for a 30-minute consultation.

<a href="" target="_self">Gerry Broski</a>

Gerry Broski

Born in Cleveland Ohio, Gerry has a long and colorful career working in marketing, sales and product management for tech-driven companies. He’s worked with teams and managed projects and people to successfully develop new products, penetrate new markets and generate positive results. Creative, inquisitive, and an avid reader, Gerry is now focused on using his skills and experience to help others navigate the wild world of digital marketing as a member of the FounderTraction Team.

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