What is Frequency Capping?


The internet is full of ads.

You can’t visit any website or social media platform these days without seeing an advertisement at some point. There is definitely a fine line between an unobtrusive ad that sits nicely on the page and catches your attention and one that imposes itself and ruins your experience of that website.

Not everyone gets this right.

73% of consumers dislike pop up ads and an even higher number exit out of a website as soon as a pop up ad appears. Seeing the same ad over and over again is also annoying to many people. Rather than convince people to click on the ad it outs people off.

We are going to look at something called frequency capping but first, we need to have a look at real-time bidding.

what is the difference between frequency and impression, best practices

Let’s start with Real Time Bidding

A frequency cap can be applied in many different advertising scenarios however we need to understand real-time bidding.

Think about it this way. There are two sides to advertising – one is the publisher who has the digital space to put the ad and the other is the advertiser who wants to sell their ad. You know the way you see several different ads in the one spot on the same website? This is where real time bidding and the frequency cap come into place.

Real time bidding is essentially a method pf programmatic advertising. The highest bidder will get their ad shown at the first impression, the second highest bidder at the second and so on. What this means is that if you click on 5 pages on that site then will you see the same ad 5 different times in the same spot? Not exactly.

What is Frequency Capping?

This is where frequency capping comes into play.

Frequency capping limits the number of times that one person will see an ad on each website. This can be set by your campaign, ad group or even set by how many times they will see the ad per day, week or month.

Let’s look at an example to show you how this works in practice.

There is a website that sells golf clubs and 3 different bidders are trying to get their ads shown on the site. One is a big sports retailer with a massive advertising budget, one is a fairly successful golf club affiliate and the last person is someone who is just starting out.

They all bid to get their ads shown on the site. The major retailer wins as they have the highest budget and sets a frequency cap at 3, the semi-successful affiliate comes second and has a frequency cap of 4 and the newbie starting out comes last and has a frequency cap of 5.

When an individual goes onto the site they will see the ad from the major retailer 3 times (on different pages), the semi-successful affiliate will be next and the newbie will be last. The problem for many advertisers that don’t have a big budget is that they need the individual to visit a number of pages on the site before their ad will be shown.

What is the difference between frequency and impression?

While frequency and impression may sound the same – they are actually different.

Ad frequency and impressions is not the same thing.

An impression is each time that a person see’s your ad. One impression = one time that individual views your ad. Frequency capping, as we have seen above, is a way in which
you can limit the number of times that someone see’s your ad per visit to a website which brings us onto…

Remarketing and ad fatigue

Remarketing is when your ad is shown again and again to a specific audience. This is why the frequency cap is so important. If someone continually see’s the same ad over and over again then they are more likely to be put off than actually click on it.

Some people do think that remarketing doesn’t necessarily result in what we call ad fatigue however there is definitely a fine line between retargeting people with the same ad in case they have missed it and spamming people with the same ad over and over again.

Frequency capping best practices

There isn’t one rule in terms of how your frequency cap should work and much of it should be based on testing as well as trial and error.

There are some good tips and best practices that you should follow particular within the EU as GDPR is now in full swing. Using personal identifiers and storing this information for frequency cap purposes without consent can result in huge fines under the new legislation and it is something that needs to be taken into consideration for advertising and frequency cap purposes.

Use frequency capping to your advantage

It’s estimated that the average internet user see’s nearly 2000 adverts every single month. That is a huge number and it can be easy to ignore the vast majority of them.

Real-time bidding is a great way in which advertisers can get their ads onto prime digital space however ad frequency is something that needs considered. Showing the same ad to the same person on the same website a couple of times can really drive home that they need to click on it and this can work amazingly well. Showing the same ad to the same person on the same website 10 times will put them off and they’ll get sick of it and your brand pretty quickly.

This is why the frequency cap is vital. It allows you to display an ad to an individual several times without annoying them or turning them away. It will help with ROI in the long run and it will ensure that ad fatigue is kept to a minimum.

The frequency cap and RTB can be confusing initially but once you get your head around it you can really use it to your advantage and maximise your marketing efforts.

In this article