Ad Frequency Overload Becomes Defining Challenge In CTV Ad World

  • by , Featured Contributor, August 10, 2023
Yes, linear TV gives viewers too many of the same ads, particularly if you watch only a small group of networks and are a heavy TV viewer.

But as bad as ad frequency management is on linear TV, it’s much, much worse on ad-supported streaming services.

For me, it’s typically the one of the things that someone I’ve just met asks me about when I tell them that I work in the world of TV ad-targeting tech.

It’s also in the numbers. If you analyze smart TV data comparing linear and streaming ad delivery, you find most of the outlier heavy ad frequency per show is on streaming.

Why is that? Well, a bunch of reasons. Two of the top reasons are:

Impression-based planning. I thank my good friend and industry legend Jim Meskauskas, of Media Darwin, for pointing this out. Planning by impression weight means that when the ad server finds viewers who fit the campaign’s criteria, they get the ad over and over again until they hit the daily frequency cap, if there is one.

Multiple, disparate sellers, platforms and servers for the same ad spots. Most streaming ad inventory is sold and served by a number of different companies, each using their own frequency controls and typically supplying the same advertisers. Thus, if there are three suppliers each applying a 3X per day cap, the viewer will get that ad nine times.

What’s the effect of these factors?

Viewers care; streamers will too. Ad experiences will increasingly be key elements in how viewers think about their streaming services. For sure, some services will work hard to differentiate themselves with better frequency management. Netflix has already talked about it.

Brand advertisers lose. The fact that streaming ad campaigns are not planned on a reach basis, with each impression secured on a predictive, unduplicated reach basis, is bad for brand advertisers, who have massive portions of their investments wasted on empty frequency (what Erwin Ephron famously called media’s “crabgrass”).

So what? If viewers and advertisers lose because of wasted frequency, it makes a lot of sense for publishers and intermediaries to care, too. Unfortunately, intermediate DSP and SSP platforms that could actually fix the problem tend to be most focused on impression throughput rather than long-term sustainability.

I believe that how ad frequency overload is handled by the CTV ad industry could very easily define it. What do you think?

3 comments about "Ad Frequency Overload Becomes Defining Challenge In CTV Ad World".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, August 10, 2023 at 5:58 p.m.

    Dave, what you are describing has long been evident on very low rated cable channels. Here, too, buyers make low CPM tonnage deals and in order to monetize the buys the sellers schedule many commercials repetitively---while the buyers seemingly look the other way and their clients  can't be bothered to check what's happening. It seems that exactly the same thing has taken root in streaming where most individual AVOD and FAST services are also low rated and time---or "impressions"---- is also bought on a tonnage basis. 

    Since the streaming time sellers have no incentive to develop systems which generate fewer "impresssions"---and ad revenues---- to avoid this problem advertiser CMOs need to get  involved, put a stop to their bean counters' fixation with CPMs and demand that the problem be addressed. But will they? Frankly I doubt it as these are the same CMOs who bleat about the need for better TV audience measurements at industry gatherings, but are nowhere to be found when the obvious need to include attentiveness in national TV rating surveys comes up. If that's not important enough to take a stand on why bother about CTV?

  2. Phil Guarascio from PG Ventures LLC, August 11, 2023 at 3:45 p.m.


    again--shedding light on a very, very long term issue. and ed is right, most have a "head in the sand" attitude, or just talk sans action. as does aed, i can recall doinfg frequency distributiion studies through out my time at an agency, GM and even the NFL. the only glimmer of hope i see out there is P&g's recent public staements on the subject of, in their terms,"excessive frequency" and the quest for more reach. 

    keep banging the drum.


  3. John Grono from GAP Research, August 11, 2023 at 5:27 p.m.

    Spot on Dave, Ed and Phil.

    Not only is excessive frequency a waste of advertising funds, it is almost certain to be detrimental to the brand.   You might have interest with the first few exposures but when you see the same brand in break after break in a programme, at best the viewer has ennui but more likely brand interest becomes brand rejection.

    For example, in AU we have a two-minute American ad for a type of a map to clean the blades of a ceiling fan.   Initially you think ... that's a clever idea.   Everybody I speak to who have seen the ad say the ad drives them mad and they'd never buy it.

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