If your business’ promotion model relies on advertising – whether online or with physical ads – then you should be wary of ad fatigue. This highly overlooked aspect of advertising is crucial to understand and control as it could make or break your campaign’s objectives and performance.

In fact, ignoring the effects of ad fatigue will lead you to spend more than necessary on acquiring new customers. This will either affect your business’s bottom line or require you to cut costs in other marketing ventures in order to maintain it.

What is Ad Fatigue?

When your business runs an ad, it’s only a matter of time for it to become stale. This is when it starts blending into the background and its effectiveness begins to decay. If you’re a commuter in an urban or metropolitan area, you likely see dozens of billboards on your way to and from work. After a while, it doesn’t stand out anymore because you’re so used to seeing it.

Studies show that most Americans are exposed to 4,000 – 10,000 ads per day. With that amount of marketing being thrown in front of us on a daily basis, it is crucial that your ad doesn’t fade in with the countless others that people will ignore or simply don’t see because of poor marketing. This phenomenon is known as ad fatigue.

How To Identify Ad Fatigue

Some of the metrics that you can use to gauge ad fatigue include the following:

  • CPM (cost per thousand impressions) increases over time
  • CTR (click-through rate) decreases
  • Cost per Lead Increases
  • Use CPC or CPA / CPL

Using these metrics makes it much easier to see how the performance of an ad varies over time. Because these metrics are typically trivial to measure from online PPC ad platforms, it can make measuring fatigue of an online campaign folds faster than measuring cycles with local and offline campaigns.

How to Fix Ad Fatigue

The key to solving the problem produced by stale, fatigued ads lies in rotation. There are two main ways to perform rotation for ads and marketing campaigns.

1. Swap Out The Ad Creative

You can easily swap out the ads you’re using. It doesn’t require a lot of change either. You can change aesthetics or graphics in your ad, including:

  • Text
  • Font
  • Colors
  • Images

Working with the Text and Font

There are a couple of things you can do with the font and text on your ads. First, you can change the position of them. If the text appears in the center of the ad, you can place it in a corner, at the top or bottom of the ad’s canvas.

Another angle you can approach from is changing the font. Assuming you’re following your brand’s guidelines and not harming your brand in any way, you can experiment with different fonts, font colors, bolding or underlining specific parts of the ad copy. 

Without too much additional work, you can create a number of variations of the same ad simply by changing the text and font. This alone can help in keeping your ads fresh.

Use Different Colors and Images in your Ads

The more dramatic parts of your ads that you can change are by changing your ads images, graphics, and colors. Changing a background color alone is a great way to refresh your otherwise unchanged ad. Again, it’s important to adhere to your branding guidelines. However, all else being equal, this can grab the same audience’s attention and keep your business top of mind with them.

The other angle to take is by changing the images you use in your ads. Some of our ads have the business owners or employees – as we primarily work local-based law firms. We use the same main photos of the business’s team while changing just the background. We vary this by changing the background color to different colors from their branding guidelines. We also take stock images from different cities and areas they service and plain background color with these images instead.

Display banner ad variants

Just with two main photos and 4 different backgrounds, we can create 8 different images that all look similar, work effectively to promote their firm’s brand, but will suffer less from ad fatigue due to the variations we’ve rendered.

2. Ad Location & Audience

The other main way you can rotate ads is between different audiences and locations. In this case, you can repurpose ads that have become stale in a certain audience or location to another. This will save your graphic designer or advertisers from creating new graphics and ads.

If you’re using online advertising platforms, such as Facebook, Google or LinkedIn, then this becomes a trivial exercise. Using these platforms you can easily segment your target market and audiences into sub-audiences. This way, you can have several ads rotating among these different audiences saving you from updating these as often.

If you only have one ad graphic, you can run your ad in one or several segmented locations at once. Pause these audiences and locations from running the ad if it begins to suffer from fatigue. At this point, you can start running it to new segments of your audience. 

Applying Ad Fatigue Controls Beyond Online and PPC

Now, for apparent reasons, this doesn’t apply to print media and ads. Unlike online ads, you can’t simply toggle your campaigns on or off, change target audiences or locations on a whim. However, you do have the ability to apply these principles to your physical and more conventional advertising mediums. Understanding ad fatigue’s effects can help to cull ads before they become stale and your campaign costs begin to rise. Again, because these types of advertising are longer-term, it’s difficult to know from the outset how long a campaign should be. 

However, if you plan on using the medium again in the future, keep tabs on when leads and returns from the ads begin to decrease. Observe the ad’s performance on a weekly basis, how many leads it generates over time. You’ll be able to see when the ad’s effectiveness decreases and adjust future campaign durations. You may end up paying higher premiums for opting for a shorter contract on billboards and other print ads. However, this is a decision to be weighed by calculating the rising cost per lead incurred by ad fatigue.

Other Opportunities to Control Ad Fatigue

New opportunities will present themselves as you manage more ad campaigns on more platforms – especially online. Another great way to curb the effects of ad fatigue exists on Facebook is with video ads. Facebook allows you to create an audience made from people who have already seen your ad. You can use this to exclude them from seeing it again, for an amount of time you specify. This keeps your video ad nearly evergreen with your audience as it is constantly being shown to new people.

Knowing When It’s Not Ad Fatigue Issues

Other types of ads and platforms aren’t even likely to experience ad fatigue. A good example of this is SEM (search engine marketing) or search ads. These are ads displayed within search results based on the keyword or search phrase a user types in. These are ads for a high-intent audience. They only appear when people search specifically for something related to that ad. Therefore, people only tend to see these ads when they are searching for something at that moment. These ads are far less likely to experience fatigue. This is because search ads are only being displayed to people at a certain moment within the purchase cycle.

Continuing with the example, search ads also just text-based ads (with the exclusion of shopping and e-commerce ads displayed in search results). Because they lack visual elements and graphics, they don’t capture the user’s attention and therefore won’t fatigue in the same manner.

How Different Seasons Play Into Ad Fatigue

Perhaps your ads are experiencing ad fatigue symptoms, however, it could be another issue. We work with law firms. Based on the region and area of law, there are some variances in leads and conversions throughout the year. However, most of the areas of practice we deal with experience similar seasonality effects. We’re cognizant of the fact that there will be effects due to seasonality. There will be peaks and dips depending on the time of year and even certain weeks in a season.

One way we use to measure this is by looking at the overall marketing and conversion performance; from leads produced via referral business, SEO and organic traffic to AdWords campaigns and PPC ads. If the overall trend is low, then we tend to wait before hypothesizing that ad fatigue is the cause of failure.


A critical understanding of ad fatigue will allow you to make smarter decisions in marketing and advertising your business. This includes when to cull ads or control the effects of ad fatigue (both in digital and physical advertising mediums). Which of the two (or whether you can use both) will depend upon the mediums or types of ads you’re using to promote your business and its offers.

Beyond that, it’s critical to keep in mind that not all campaigns and types of advertising are susceptible to ad fatigue. Be aware of the advertising medium as well as other potential causes such as seasonality.

Featured image credit: unsplash.com

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Jared Kimball is an AI consultant, digital marketer for lawyers and lead strategist at Zahavian Legal Marketing, an agency that works with law firms and solo practitioners. Like many businesses, Zahavian realizes that law firms are seeking efficient and cost-effective marketing solutions that produce predictable results through SEO, brand strategy, content, web and PPC advertising channels.

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