Did [insert brand name here] buy the whole Internet?


By Maria Martinez-Diaz, Sr. Manager, Business Development

Targeting Gone Wrong

15 years as an internet user, 4 years as media planner and 2 years as DSP employee have exposed me to some really awful ad targeting. Everything from California prop 8 messages when I am clearly in New York, to an epic number of car ads when I don’t even have a valid driver’s license. The mind boggling part? Almost all bad targeting is preventable by leveraging existing technology solutions. In this series we will explore poorly targeted ads and what advertisers can do to prevent them. Our first post looked at retargeting gone wrong, while the second installment here deals with ads that follow you around the internet…everywhere.

Freq Capping
Exhibit A: Four ads for the same advertiser on one page

The Offense: Ever feel like you see the same ad or commercial over and over again? Ever been proven right when you consecutively watch all four seasons of Downton Abbey on Hulu+?

Why does it happen?

Poorly managed frequency capping.

Let’s start with the basics: frequency is the amount of times a user sees an ad over a given time period. Three per 24 would mean three times over a period of 24 hours; or a maximum of 1,095 times in a given year. In traditional media, frequency capping can be consistent because the audience overlap between properties is understood upfront. However, the Internet is a vastly different place. With exchanges providing a disintermediation between the publishers, the audience and the buyer, it is near impossible to know upfront the true audience overlaps between your media plan partners.

Applying strict upfront frequency caps does not solve the problem. What tends to happen instead: your amazing analytics team discovers the perfect frequency cap, say, 3 per user per day. You then partner with five companies to reach your target. Since each company has no idea how many times the other companies are hitting the same user on a given day, you may actually be hitting each user up to 15x per day (3 per 24 * 5), despite partners adhering to the recommended frequency caps.

The Loss:

Not only have you annoyed your customers by showing them the same ad too many times, but budget has been spent in an inefficient manner.

Wait! It gets worse:

When you consider multi-channel (across video, display, mobile, social etc.) and multi-device (TV, computer, tablet, smartphone) activity, the average user frequency can be many orders of magnitude larger.

What can be done about it?

The best way to manage frequency is to understand and optimize what the ‘global’ frequency is of a given campaign. In this case, global simply means across the entire media plan and in advanced scenarios, across all digital channels. Some ways to do so include:

  1. Reduce the number of partners on a plan or on a given tactic. By reducing partners you reduce the number of user touch points and thus the risk of over exposure. However, one drawback to this approach is that you may inadvertently reduce your overall reach and effectiveness of your campaign. Proceed with caution!
  2. Savvy audience-centric, media-plan reporting. These tools deliver the focused information necessary to deliver a better customers experience… often times improve the allocation of media dollars across partners, channels and touch points, so you can manage to that ideal frequency cap.
  3. Data Management Platform. Certain advertisers have started down the path of DMP (Data Management Platform) implementations to gain a 360-degree view of how each audience is treated across touch-points. However, implementing a DMP can take time to implement across multiple partners and channels

Have you been a victim of frequency caps gone amuck? Mine is seeing the same vacuum ad 37 times a day over the past few weeks (yes, I am in-market, but still!) Leave your story in the comments!