Social media ad fatigue: How to combat it without spending all day making new creatives

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Every time we step outside our front door, switch on the television or look at our phones, we’re bombarded by advertising — so much so that many people are sick of it. Last year, downloads of ad blockers increased by 30 percent, thanks to people striving to create a content-only environment for themselves online. (Perhaps they’ve never heard that phrase about a free lunch.)

But when it comes to paid social, ad blockers have significantly less impact. Facebook and others continue to find workarounds that allow their revenue-driving ads to keep being served to users. Scores of advertisers are using paid social at present, and the clicks on those ads are what generate revenue for social platforms.

But when you’re competing with a jaded audience and so many other advertisers, how do you stop people from getting sick of your ads? Ad fatigue, as it’s commonly known, is when your audience has seen your ads multiple times and starts to ignore them. But more importantly, it could be the death of your paid social campaigns.

Below, I’ll take a look specifically at the impact of ad fatigue on Facebook campaigns and how you can lessen its impact.

Why care about ad fatigue?

Ad fatigue doesn’t just mean a few people getting annoyed with ads; it means a measurable impact on a campaign’s performance.

Below are some examples of the kind of results we see at Merkle (my employer) when ads have been running for too long:

Click-through rate over time.

 

Cost per acquisition over time.

 

It paints a predictable, rather nasty picture.

AdEspresso demonstrated the relationship between these various metrics perfectly with a study on a cross-section of their clients. The graph below shows quite clearly that the more often people see your ads, the less likely they are to click on them, and the more it will cost you when they do:

So, we know it’s a huge problem — now, how do we avoid it? There are a few options you can explore, depending on your capabilities and resources.

Regular creative refreshes

Facebook’s advertising best practices advise that you change your creative every one to two weeks to avoid fatigue. In theory, that’s a great idea. Creative refreshes mean users don’t have a chance to get sick of your ads, you can stay highly relevant to current events and seasonal changes, and you’ve got a lot of scope for testing.

But in reality, producing creative is time-consuming and expensive. Few advertisers have the budget to be making weekly changes. And in fact, I wouldn’t recommend changing it that often anyway. A foundation of Facebook advertising is the ability to run multivariate tests to understand what resonates best with the user. And with just a week’s worth of data, you’re unlikely to have results statistically significant enough to make those determinations.

So how often should creative be changed? The marketing analytics department at Merkle carried out some analysis on ad fatigue for one of our large clients. The graph below shows the performance of each creative over time, compared to its respective performance in its first week of running. They found that after 35 days, CPC (cost per click) began to be seriously negatively impacted by ad fatigue.

 

With that in mind, it’s a good idea to aim to refresh your creatives on at least a monthly basis. That way, you can gather enough data to gain useful results from any creative testing you’re running, but you don’t run the risk of users becoming bored with your ads. Of course, even a monthly refresh may be too big an ask for some, so what alternatives are there?

Copy and call-to-action testing

One great thing about Facebook ads is that the creative is only one part of them. If we take the humble link ad as an example, Facebook’s most basic format, we can see there are lots of other elements that can be altered to change the ad:

Testing copy or different calls to action is a great alternative to creative testing, and it can be done without the creation of any additional assets.

All you need for copy testing is a way with words — and for call-to-action testing, the ability to select from a drop-down menu. Easy as pie.

Dynamic Ads

Facebook also provides tools that update your ads without you having to lift a finger. Dynamic Product Ads used to just be available for targeting custom audiences — i.e., serving someone an ad containing a product they had previously viewed on your site.

But this year, Facebook released the ability to use Dynamic Ads for prospecting audiences. It still involves uploading a product catalogue and building a Dynamic Ad template, but the products included in the ads aren’t based on anything a user has previously viewed on your site.

Instead, Facebook uses data from pixels implemented across a huge range of sites to determine which products a user may be intending to purchase. So, if someone has been browsing fridge freezers on other sites, and they fall into one of your prospecting audiences, you can dynamically serve them an ad containing a selection of your company’s fridge freezers.

This use of Dynamic Ads means you can easily create a personalized, highly relevant experience for each user seeing your ads. And that personalization is the antidote to ad fatigue. Instead of feeling bombarded with generic ads that mean nothing to them, your users feel that you’re speaking to them personally and will be more engaged.

Final thoughts

It’s easy to put refreshing creatives at the bottom of your priority list. As long as you’ve got ads live, there’s no problem, right? Wrong.

We can see from a variety of data sources that ad fatigue has a negative impact on ad performance, and as a result, can impact your bottom line. Therefore, it’s not a problem that can be ignored.

Ideally, ensure that you’re carrying out ad testing of some kind at all times and refreshing your ads on at least a monthly basis. If you don’t have the resources to refresh creative that often, don’t forget that copy and call-to-action testing can also help to keep fatigue at bay. Stay fresh and relevant, and your users will remain engaged.


Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.




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