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Understanding Frequency Capping: Best Practices and Key Concepts

Frequency capping is an essential technique in digital marketing that limits the number of times an ad is shown to a single user within a specified period. This practice helps prevent ad fatigue, where users become annoyed or uninterested due to seeing the same ad repeatedly. Understanding and implementing frequency capping effectively can enhance ad performance and improve the user experience.

Understanding Frequency Capping

Frequency capping involves setting a maximum number of times an individual user will see an ad within a defined timeframe, such as daily, weekly, or monthly. This limit can be applied across different campaign levels, including ad group or individual ads. By managing ad exposure, it's possible to maintain user interest and avoid wasting impressions on already saturated audiences.

Frequency Capping Glossary

Here are some essential terms to know about frequency capping:

  • Impressions: An impression is counted each time an ad is fetched and displayed to a user. Monitoring the number of impressions helps in managing how often an ad is shown to the same user within a specific timeframe.
  • Cap impression frequency: This term refers to the maximum number of times an ad can be shown to a user within a certain period. For example, a cap impression frequency of 3 per week means a user will not see the ad more than three times in a week.
  • Cap view frequency: Similar to cap impression frequency, it specifically tracks the number of times an ad is viewed or interacted with. This helps in understanding user engagement levels and adjusting frequency caps accordingly​.
  • Time capping: Time capping limits the time frame in which an ad is shown rather than the number of times it’s shown. For example, an ad might be set to appear only during specific hours of the day, ensuring it reaches users at optimal times​​.
  • Dayparting: It is a technique used to show ads at different times of the day based on when the target audience is most active. This method ensures that ads are served when they are most likely to be seen and engaged with​.
  • Ad fatigue: Fatigue occurs when users become tired of seeing the same ad repeatedly, leading to decreased engagement. Effective frequency capping helps prevent ad fatigue by limiting over-exposure​.
  • Viewability rate: Viewability rate is a metric that measures the percentage of an ad that is visible to users out of the total number of times it was served. For an ad to be considered viewable, at least 50% of its pixels must be visible on the screen for a minimum of one second for display ads and two seconds for video ads. This metric is crucial for assessing the effectiveness of display advertising, as it indicates the likelihood that an ad was actually seen by the audience, rather than just being served. 
  • Creative rotation: Creative rotation is a strategy used in digital advertising where multiple ad creatives are alternated or rotated within a single campaign. This approach helps prevent ad fatigue by showing different versions of an ad to the same audience over time, keeping the content fresh and engaging.
  • Non-clicked impressions: This term refers to ad impressions that do not result in clicks. Analyzing non-clicked impressions helps in optimizing the frequency cap by understanding how many exposures are necessary before a user is likely to engage​.
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Importance of Frequency Capping

Frequency capping plays a crucial role in maintaining the balance between reaching your audience and not overwhelming them. This strategy is crucial for several reasons:

  1. Prevents ad fatigue: By capping the frequency, advertisers can avoid overwhelming users with repetitive ads, which can lead to annoyance and negative perceptions of the brand. This ensures that ads remain effective and engaging rather than becoming a source of irritation.
  2. Optimizes budget utilization: Frequency capping helps in distributing ad impressions more evenly across a broader audience. This optimizes the ad spend by avoiding excessive exposure to the same users and increasing the chances of reaching new potential customers.
  3. Improves user experience: Ensuring that users are not bombarded with the same ad multiple times enhances their overall experience. A positive user experience can lead to better brand perception and higher engagement rates.
  4. Increases campaign effectiveness: By managing how often ads are shown to individual users, marketers can improve the overall effectiveness of their campaigns. This can lead to higher click-through rates (CTR) and conversion rates, as users are more likely to engage with ads they haven’t seen repeatedly.

How Frequency Capping Works

Frequency capping works by tracking the number of times an ad is served to a unique user and then preventing additional exposures once the cap is reached. Here’s how it functions for different types of campaigns.

  • Display campaigns: Setting frequency caps controls the number of impressions a user receives per day, week, or month. This helps manage the budget efficiently and ensures ads are shown to a wider audience without over-saturating specific users.
  • Video campaigns: Frequency caps for video campaigns can limit the number of views or impressions per user. This applies to both signed-in users and those identified by device if they are signed out. Video campaigns often require more nuanced capping to balance engagement with ad fatigue.

To automatically validate that the frequency cap is set correctly for all campaigns use automated solutions like Cerebro. It's an AI-powered campaign data management tool that validates operational, business, and compliance guidelines of your campaigns across Google Ads, The Trade Desk, DV360, and Meta.

Determining the Optimal Frequency Cap

Finding the right frequency cap is critical and varies by campaign and audience. Analyzing data trends, such as opt-out rates and engagement metrics, helps identify the optimal cap. Here are some specific numbers and insights based on recent studies and industry insights.

Campaign Goals

Setting an optimal frequency cap for ads varies significantly based on the type of campaign and ad platform. 

The Trade Desk researched the impact ad frequency has on lift percentage across the purchasing journey.
The Trade Desk research on the impact of ad frequency on lift percentage throughout the purchase journey

A general guideline for Facebook ads suggests a frequency of 2 exposures per week over 10 weeks for brand awareness campaigns, while more aggressive retargeting campaigns may benefit from frequencies of 5-10 impressions per month.

For broader digital advertising campaigns, initial recommendations suggest capping impressions at 5-7 per day, with adjustments based on performance data. This approach helps balance visibility and engagement without overwhelming the audience​.

Additionally, for sales-focused campaigns, a frequency of 3 impressions per day is commonly used.

But don’t blindly rely on the frequency benchmarks, use them as a starting point and adjust based on the analytics data.

Audience Behavior

Understanding your audience's tolerance for ad frequency is crucial. Different segments may have different thresholds for ad fatigue. 

For B2B campaigns, the buying cycle is typically longer, and the decision-making process involves multiple stakeholders. This often necessitates a lower frequency cap to prevent ad fatigue and maintain a positive impression. For instance, a frequency of 3-4 impressions per month is often recommended for higher-priced products or services to ensure the message remains impactful without causing annoyance.

The optimal ad frequency cap for B2C campaigns generally ranges from 3 to 5 impressions per week. This range helps maintain consumer interest without causing ad fatigue, ensuring that the audience is reminded of the brand while still finding the ads engaging.

Ad Performance Data

Regularly reviewing metrics like click-through rates (CTR) and conversion rates helps adjust caps based on performance. 

For instance, a declining CTR with increased ad frequency indicates that users are becoming tired of seeing the same ad, suggesting a need to lower the frequency cap. Similarly, monitoring conversion rates helps ensure that higher ad exposure translates into desired actions, such as purchases or sign-ups, rather than deterring potential customers.

Engagement metrics like time spent on the landing page and interaction with ad elements also provide valuable insights into audience response to ad frequency. A/B testing different frequency caps allows marketers to compare results and determine the most effective frequency for their specific audience. Additionally, real-time data analytics enable immediate adjustments to ad frequency based on current performance, ensuring ongoing optimization. 

See What’s Working for Your Brand

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Improvado is an AI-powered marketing analytics and intelligence platform. It consolidates data from various advertising platforms into a single, cohesive dataset, simplifying the analysis and enabling real-time optimization decisions. With Improvado, marketers can focus on what truly matters—leveraging actionable advertising insights to drive strategy and achieve a better return on investment.


What is frequency capping in digital marketing?

Frequency capping is a technique that limits the number of times an ad is shown to a single user within a specified period. It helps prevent ad fatigue and improves the effectiveness of ad campaigns.

Why is frequency capping important?

Frequency capping is crucial because it helps maintain a balance between reaching the audience and avoiding overexposure. It prevents ad fatigue, enhances user engagement, and optimizes ad spend.

How does frequency capping work?

Frequency capping tracks the number of times an ad is served to a unique user and prevents additional exposures once the cap is reached. It can be applied to various campaign types, including display and video campaigns.

What are some best practices for implementing frequency capping?

Best practices include monitoring ad viewability, customizing frequency caps across the customer journey, using creative rotation, and considering dayparting to show ads at optimal times.

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