Frequency Capping – What it is and why you should be using it


Frequency Capping is a technology that helps advertisers limit the number of times a given user sees an advertisement. By limiting the number of views per ad per user, the advertiser maximizes the value of his ad spend.

Frequency Capping helps maximize value in several ways, but the most important are the three things it helps to prevent:

  1. Banner Burnout/Banner Blindness
  2. Wasteful spending
  3. Damage to advertiser brand

In a rush? Skip straight to the essentials!

Banner Burnout

Banner Burnout (or Banner Blindness) is a term you might have never heard before. It sounds funny, but it’s a real problem for display advertisers. Indeed, it’s a problem for digital advertisers of every sort.

At its base, Banner Burnout is a phenomenon in digital advertising whereby a viewer sees the same ad (often in the same place but not necessarily) so many times that he mentally tunes it out. That is to say, he becomes blind to it.

This burnout can be a serious problem for digital advertisers.

Let’s say that a certain user seems to be a particularly good prospect; so the advertiser starts aggressively showing them ads. Maybe the user wants to sign up – he really is interested – but he can’t convert right now because he is doing something else.

Several ads over a long period of time might serve to keep him engaged. However, if they become ubiquitous, he will unwittingly begin to ignore them.

Banner Burnout/Blindness is a complicated psychological phenomenon, and there are multiple ways to advertise to users without risking it. But with banners and display advertising it can be difficult to avoid.

Frequency Capping is generally the most effective way to fight Banner Blindness.


Sometimes you just need to know when to quit

Even with all of the advanced tracking, targeting, and retargeting tools out there, sometimes the wrong user still receives the wrong ad.

This could be advertising a product for new mothers to a single man. Or it could be promoting rock climbing equipment to someone afraid of heights.

This kind of lousy targeting frequently happens with public or family computers. But it can also occur with personal devices. Modern targeting and tracking technology just isn’t advanced enough to show the right person the right ad one hundred percent of the time.

Since the technology isn’t perfect, there will always be instances where a user is being served ads for things in which he simply isn’t interested.

Frequency Capping limits the amount of money that can be spent on this user. This allows an advertiser to substantially cut his losses and stop presenting an ineffective ad to the same person over and over.

Mathematically, if a user hasn’t converted after a certain number of impressions, he likely isn’t going to convert on a given campaign. This threshold depends largely on campaign, vector, medium, and past advertiser experience.

But Frequency Capping can go beyond just saving you from wasting ad spend. It can also help keep you from damaging your brand.

Brand Damage

This one is closely related to ineffectiveness. After a certain number of views without conversion, you can be relatively confident that a given user isn’t going to convert on a new ad.

But worse, if the user starts to get annoyed, then frequently seeing the same ad or ads from the same campaign can start to work against it. It can actually hurt brand image.

So in essence, an advertiser would be paying to damage their brand!

The risk of high-frequency advertisements damaging brand is exceptionally high with certain ad types. Any situation wherein an advertisement gets in between the user and his entertainment is a situation that requires aggressive Frequency Capping.

These advertisements could be interstitial ads on text sites, or it could be video ads that interrupt a user’s video. It’s especially dangerous on video sources as it often very abruptly interrupts a user’s experience. This sudden interruption could start to damage one’s brand if it occurs to the same person several times in quick succession.

But this can be a problem outside of video and interstitial ads, too. Certain ads in specific contexts can quickly generate negative feelings with users if they’re served to frequently.

This is just another reason that Frequency Capping is crucial to a well-run campaign.

Avoiding Low CTR with Frequency Capping

CTR (Click Through Rate) Optimization is by far the most critical benefit of Frequency Capping. Everything we’ve discussed so far has essentially been about CTR.

Preventing Banner Blindness, avoiding spending on uninterested users – this is all CTR optimization.

Low CTR is the primary, measurable negative effect of showing too many ads to the same user. Since the user sees multiple ads that he isn’t clicking on, he has a decidedly negative effect on overall CTR.

If this occurs repeatedly, it can have a massively depressive effect on CTR.

In this way, setting Frequency Capping parameters can be enormously beneficial for brand protection AND overall Click Through Rate.

Frequency Capping Guidelines

Now we’ve covered (some of) the merits of Frequency Capping and how its use could be a boon for your campaigns in the future. But when and how exactly should you be using Frequency Capping?

Let’s start with if you should be using it at all.

When to use Frequency Capping

We’ve spent quite a bit of time talking about the importance of frequency capping and how great it can be for your campaign. However, there are times that you don’t need to use it or only need to use it in a very restrained capacity.

Frequency Capping is most valuable when you need to make sure your Click Through Rate (CTR) remains above a certain level. That is to say, it prevents you from wasting money on a user who simply isn’t going to convert.

There are, however, ad campaigns that don’t use Click Through Rate to measure their success.

These are generally publicity-focused campaigns. For example, if you are trying to build a recently launched brand, then you won’t be concerned about CTR. You’ll likely only be worried about how many people have seen the ad and how well the brand sticks in their heads. In this case, repetitiveness could be beneficial depending on the medium and execution.

Likewise, say you’re trying to build awareness of a local event that is coming up. In this case, you’re going to want it shown to as many people in the surrounding area as often as possible as the event gets closer.

In these cases, Frequency Capping – or at least tight Frequency Capping – might not be a particularly good idea.

Use your data and adjust from there

The best way to start with frequency capping is to choose an arbitrary limit of impressions per user per day and then record the CTR based on the number of impressions before conversion.

To do this, you’ll have to do a little bit of data analysis.

Don’t worry – it’s quite easy.

You’ll have to look at your data and aggregate conversions by how many times the user saw an ad before final conversion.

Once you can see the CTR you’re getting for after X number of impressions, you can start to do the math. These calculations will help you determine whether or not it’s worth paying for 5 views given the CTR (and CR) in the segment.

If you find that you’re losing money after 3 impressions per user per day, then set the frequency cap at 2 or 3. If you’re finding that your CTR at 5 impressions per user per day is still profitable, then consider expanding your frequency cap.

Determining the frequency cap for your campaigns is a matter of experience. Different campaigns, brands, and offers are going to need different frequency caps.

As is so often the case, data is your friend here. Run your campaign on a limited basis to determine what works, set your caps, then start scaling up.

DSP-level Frequency capping

With modern programmatic advertising systems, an advertiser is often buying through multiple Supply-Side Providers and Ad Networks at the same time. This is simply the nature of Real-Time Bidding. However, it also means that Frequency Capping needs to be moved up a level, so to speak.

A single Ad Network, Supply-Side Provider, or Ad Server can’t have their own frequency caps.

Since advertisers now buy from multiple sources, the same user could be reached several times with the same ads – maybe even too many times. In this way, he could be exceeding your frequency cap, but since the impression is coming through different vectors, the individual frequency cap at the publisher level is never reached.

This issue can be addressed through the use of an advanced Demand-Side Platform (like Mobinner!). Here an advertiser can apply global Frequency Capping that prevents the user from seeing the same ad from the same campaign too many times.

Since the DSP is the point of entry that the Advertiser uses to place all of his campaigns regardless of the publisher, frequency caps here can work across all Ad Networks and SSPs to be utilized. This way, advertisers can greatly limit Banner Burnout and the other negative effects of overexposure to an ad.

But Frequency Capping can go further.

DMP – Cross Platform-User Map

By using a Data Management Platform, or a DSP that provides you with access to one, you can build user maps.

User maps allow you to associate multiple user and device IDs with one real user. This kind of advanced tracking allows you to target users across platforms, but that’s not the only benefit of building these maps:

They also allow you to avoid targeting the same user with the same ads too often. Effective Frequency Capping depends on protecting the user from overexposure, not just on the user ID.


Frequency Capping has become a standard feature at many different levels of digital advertising. And that’s because it is an incredibly useful feature for maximizing CTR and extracting maximum value from your digital advertising budget.

Naturally, Frequency Capping makes the most sense at a DSP level where the Frequency Cap can work across all SSPs and Ad Networks that you’ll use for a given campaign.

If you’re not using frequency capping to optimize your campaigns, you should be!

Quick Recap

Frequency Capping – A limit placed on how many times an individual user will see a given ad from a given campaign within a specific timeframe.

Banner Burnout – A psychological phenomenon whereby users become habituated to a particular ad, ad type, or ad position and mentally overlook it entirely. When one is experiencing “Banner Blindness,” he continues to see the ads – but the ads are extremely ineffective.

Frequency Capping can also prevent wasted ad spend on a user that won’t convert. Lastly, it protects an advertiser’s brand by not letting advertisements become annoying.

Mobinner is a High-Performance Demand-Side Platform. Since 2017, we’ve been helping customers acquire new users, build brands, and drive conversions. See what Mobinner DSP can do for you.

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