Ad Saturation, Ad Fatigue, and How to Target Without Over-Targeting

Ad Saturation, Ad Fatigue, and How to Target Without Over-Targeting

1CMGblogIf you've ever felt that an ad follows you around no matter where you go online, you're not alone: effective frequency has long taught marketers that in order to win their business, consumers must be exposed to the same message several times over.

But the sweet spot has always been difficult to find. After a while, it turns out that some consumers in a target audience just don’t want what a brand has to offer. In fact, potential customers may get annoyed or irritated by excessive advertising to the point that any initial interest plunges to zero.

Thanks to the rise of targeted advertising and niche marketing, today's online businesses are at greater risk of making this mistake than ever before. The key to avoiding this problem lies in understanding it.

What is Over-Targeting?

Entrepreneurs and small online start-ups have long abused the abilities of Facebook to target customers based on granular data about their personal lives. This has led to the rise of “Targeted Shirts” which draw mockery for their absurdly descriptive captions:

Talk about relatable

The fact that this is possible leads to over-targeting, which either occurs when a brand sets the parameters of its target audience too narrowly, or when it spends too much on repeat campaigns targeting the same audience.

The corollary of over-targeting is “oversaturation”: one target audience becomes swamped with ads from the same brand, resulting in bombardment. Consequently, “ad-fatigue” sets in: users get annoyed or creeped out, and engagement drops.

Over-targeting often happens when a brand’s adspend exceeds the needs of its campaign and its audience size. In theory, social platforms like Facebook have built-in safeguards to prevent this, but advertisers often bypass them believing it will improve their success. They are, however, mistaken.

Consequences of Over-Targeting

The rise of the Internet has increased the number of ads people see and where they see them. Vying for their ever-decreasing attention is a competitive business, and that is – no doubt – why 73% of U.K Internet users report seeing the same ad over and over again. But they don’t like it.

Since the 1990s, Edelman’s trust barometer shows that trust in advertising has fallen by 50%. It’s no secret that Internet users are getting harder and harder to please. And as a skeptical and impatient Gen-Z becomes the largest consumer group, marketers will have to fight against their own excesses in order to be successful.

While the ad industry works on fixing itself, how can you avoid over-targeting your own audience and prevent ad fatigue from too many repeat exposures?

How to Identify Ad-Fatigue

Fortunately, identifying ad-fatigue is not that difficult. With a combination of social listening and analytics, your audience will basically tell you loud and clear when they’ve had enough.

Social signs of ad-fatigue include,

  • Diminished reach on the same campaign: when the same campaign reaches fewer and fewer users every-time you run it, the reason is simple – they’re blocking you
  • Falling Click-Through Rate (CTR): the more impressions it takes to land a single click, the likelier it is that your target audience is getting burnt out
  • Reduced engagement: if your ad engagement (comments, likes) is falling over time without a diminishing reach, you’ve clearly over-fished the sea.
  • Annoyed feedback: when users do comment on an ad, it’s worth listening to what they say. Complaints about frequency will clue you into a problem.

How to Fix Ad-Fatigue

Depending on the reasons it happened, fixing ad-fatigue may require small tweaks, new campaigns, or a complete change in mindset.

1. Customize Frequency

Both Google and Facebook’s ad platform will allow marketers to customize “frequency” on a campaign, basically setting a limit on the number of times users will see the same ad.

While reducing frequency won’t solve the problem of reduced reach over time, it will prevent a brand from wasting money on ads that are essentially worthless and preserve those users for a future campaign.

2. Generate New Campaigns

When one campaign works well, it’s tempting to use it many times over or continually re-launch it with a few tweaks. But audiences value creativity in a brand and using the same campaign too many times leads to stagnation.

Consider generating new offers with fresh copy, commissioning higher quality ads and refining the content you put out. The purpose of an ad campaign is not merely to win new prospects, but also to extend and build a brand’s identity with time.

3. Broaden Audience

Your name, city, hair color and height can be enough to rule out the rest of the world except you. Likewise, highly specific campaigns are limited in success by the number of people who actually exist in a given target audience.

Over-targeting can therefore result from extraneous criteria, or a simple creativity problem: who else can your message reach, and what choices can be made to include them?

4. Adopt New Strategies

Over-saturation can result from putting too much of a business’s weight on ads, without exploring other marketing strategies at the same time. Today, the most successful approach to digital combines social media, content creation, email and PR in one inbound strategy.

There’s a golden rule of Internet marketing: to win customer trust, something of value must be given in return. Unless ads have the support of a vibrant online presence behind them, their impact will always be limited. Fixing that problem at the top will trickle down to the bottom.


Conveyance Marketing Group is a team of bright, innovative and talented veteran marketers dedicated to big ideas, fresh insights and measurable results. We pride ourselves on taking challenging marketing issues and turning them into opportunities for our clients, on pointing brands in the right direction, and on getting our customers noticed both online and off. From branding to websites to digital marketing, and public relations, we handle all your marketing communication needs! Web Design and Development | Brand Strategy | Inbound Marketing | Social Media | SEO | PR

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