Ad Fatigue.

Over time, great ideas fade into the overly familiar and either become the norm or merely a bore.

When the Nokia 9000 Communicator launched in 1996, advertisers could proudly amaze audiences by the ability for this mobile device to access the internet. Now, internet access is a bare minimum requirement rather than a selling point.

Familiarity breeds fatigue. Ideas, features, and designs lose their excitement by becoming overly familiar. This train of thought is paramount for avoiding failure in the advertisement industry.

Ad Fatigue Definition.

"Ad fatigue" refers to audiences getting bored with adverts due to over-familiarity.

Audiences overexposed to the same adverts will engage with them much less, harming overall ROI and general engagement.

The takeaway?

Evergreen adverts don't, and should not, exist.

I.e. If you think you've created the perfect advert, be prepared to slap an end-date on your campaign, as a single continuous creative can't work forever on the same audience.

Additional concern: Mass Overexposure.

Even more harmful, overexposure can have a negative affect, and begin turning audiences against certain brands or products. For example, Food Panda's relentless attempt to monopolise the delivery markets in Cambodia has been driven by excessive advertisements... which have pestered, harassed and antagonised their audiences.

Food Panda launches multiple adverts every day, proactively aiming to avoid the same content reaching their audiences. However, their message is largely the same, and their targeting rarely varies. The bombardment of the same message still causes extreme Ad Fatigue at an accelerated rate, with some users reportedly seeing close to fifty food panda adverts in a single week.

To quickly spot this issue, advertisers can compare 'Impressions' to 'Reach'.

Impressions refer to how many times the advert is seen, whereas 'reach' refers to how many different users see the adverts. If impressions is over four or five times that of the reach, then you should be aware that the risk of overexposure is high.

Digital Tactics.

Focusing primarily on tackling Ad Fatigue, we've considered multiple approaches to ensure your adverts continue to perform well.

Firstly, we'll cover digital advertising exclusively, before adding some final thoughts on creative traditional advertising strategies.

Change Ad Creative.

Firstly, and most obviously, simply changing the advert creative will freshen up the overall design. This doesn't mean you have to change the whole advert but simply a singular creative such as the titles, images, background, colours, or even the fonts used.

Refreshing the same style of advert can recapture attention, with minimal work.

Even the most subtle of changes can reinvent content to capture attention all over again. We recommend always putting your adverts side by side to gauge whether your new content is noticeably different enough to combat such fatigue.

Change Ad Format.

Secondly, we recommend experimenting with varied formats.

Introducing videos, gifs (including Cinemagraphs), and even interactive content can create new intrigue. Explore the available options on your chosen advertising platform, and take the opportunity to test the latest advert styles available.

For example, Facebook allows 'Instant experience' adverts that simulate a standalone website experience within the platform - with high levels of customisation. Google Ads also allow HTML5 adverts, for a more interactive style.

The difference between a single image advert, and a multiple image—or carousel advert—can be enough to revitalise your impact.

Use Topical Content.

An obvious way to avoid becoming stale is to focus on topical events.

Mapping out an advertising content calendar will help you plan for your new creatives. This may be by creating adverts based on public holidays, or relating to trending movies, tv shows, or current affairs.  

The beauty of this tactic is that it forces your team to be constantly switched on—as each campaign will have clear end dates.

Target New Audiences.

Your highest performing adverts may prove their weight in gold, and before you retire them for the next fresh creative, consider new use cases.

The best adverts use targeted audiences, to put relevant content in from of the relevant demographics. When there are signs that your audience engagement has peaked, consider repurposing your targeting.

Simply put, show the advert to new (relevant) audiences- whether that's internationally or by age, behaviour, education, or other.

A great example of when this is effective is when you have a new product or service. By doing detailed market research, you may target the early adopters concisely, before repurposing the advert for a more general audience. Once the Neophiliacs have tried and tested your product/service, you may find the general public much more open to your offerings.

Regularly Rotate Adverts.

If you don't have the luxury of a dedicated advertising team, simply creating a bank of adverts up front can help.

Your tactic here would be to regularly rotate your adverts so that your audience is only exposed to the same creative for short periods at a time. If you four creatives (A,B,C,D) and a potential customer only views each advert twice a month, it's much more effective than seeing one advert eight times a month.

Utilize Dynamic Creatives.

Many advertising platforms offer an automated solution to Ad Fatigue. 'Dynamic Creatives' are built from a supplied asset bank, and generated intelligently to achieve the best results.

The advertiser will supply multiple headings, descriptions, images, backgrounds, videos, or any other available format elements. Then, the platform will start combining the supplied assets in various ways. After an initial testing phase, statistics will point towards best-performing combinations to ensure ROI (or defined goals) is maximised.

Mix and Match Offerings.

Similarly to dynamic creatives, another tactic would be to combine adverts.

For example, if you run an online clothing shop, you could create a t-shirt advert, a hat advert, and a jacket advert separately.  Once results dip, you could run a combined advert that showcases two or three of the products in one package, to pique curiosity and strengthen the content depth.

Set Frequency Caps.

Finally, some platforms allow the extremely useful option of being able to put a cap on impression frequencies per user. This means that you can define a maximum number of times your advert should be shown to a unique user, to ensure they don't get bored of seeing your content too regularly.

The bonus benefit for using frequency caps, is that you protect budgets from being wasted on viewers that are unlikely to engage with the advert anymore.

Final Thoughts.

Traditional advertising can turn heads with creative flare, but digital advertising has a clear advantage: analytics.

The ease of tracking views, clicks, demographics, and behaviours can be a catalyst for further ROI from your advertising. In the age of big data, virtual methods offer greater ease for effective advertising. Being able to define a narrow niche audience, in any country, at any time, is beyond advantageous.

However, with such great opportunities, advertising platforms are flooded with vendors competing for additional custom. Many consumers are developing 'Ad Blindness', whereby overexposure and lack of trust is switching them off adverts altogether. This issue means that advertisers need to become more creative with their copy and visuals to cut through the noise and generate genuine, trustworthy content.

Successful campaigns explore all possibilities, and very often find ways to exploit untapped ideas—turning heads due to their unique execution. But, be aware of ad fatigue as attention spans have dropped and heads won't remained turned for long.

Start thinking 3 steps ahead, ready to surprise and intrigue your audience again, and again.