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Why it’s time to redefine creative fatigue

If your ad is still a high performer, who cares how many times people have seen it?
Susan Wenograd

Most advertisers define creative fatigue (or ad fatigue) as the point at which your audience has seen your ad too many times. The audience, presumably, grows weary of it after a certain number of exposures rendering the ad creative ineffective. This is often paired with an assumption that each exposure must be different or dynamic.

But all of this flies in the face of consistent exposure and effective frequency. I say, if the ad is still performing, who cares how many times your audience has seen it? 

This is why I propose the following redefining of creative fatigue — in a way that better serves us in this new era of diluted audience targeting.

True creative fatigue: the point at which your ad performance begins to decline, regardless of frequency

With this new definition in mind, here are some signs you might be experiencing true creative fatigue and how to mitigate it.

Signs you might be experiencing true creative fatigue

Your KPI is starting to fall off of benchmark

There’s a day for every ad when it starts becoming less efficient. When your baseline or benchmark for that ad starts to erode, that’s probably a good sign it’s time to take it out of rotation. Again, this may have nothing to do with how many times someone has seen the ad — this is solely based on how it’s performing against goal.

First-time impression ratio is dwindling dramatically

First-time impression ratio is a lesser-known metric within Meta that tells you the percentage of daily impressions coming from people seeing your ad for the first time.

The ratio dipping is a good indicator that Meta is running out of people in your audience to show your ad to, or is struggling to find additional audiences based on your targeting/objective. However, this ratio should be checked against ad performance. If the ratio is low but performance is still high, there’s no reason to stop it just because “maybe that audience is tired of it.”

How to combat true creative fatigue

Target larger, broader audiences 

Expanding your target audience lets social media platforms obtain more data, which usually results in the platform being able to optimize more efficiently. This is especially true in a post-iOS 14 world. That larger data pool gives you more chances to find high-intent buyers, meaning your ad can perform better for longer.

Give your ads time

Don’t pause an ad just because the social media platform alerts you to creative fatigue as they define it. Let it keep running until you see true creative fatigue in the form of performance declines.

Case in point: after running a multivariate test on their ad creative, one of our customers put the winning ad into their evergreen ad campaign. The ad ran for five months — over 7 million people saw it several times — and yet its performance remained consistently high.

Have plenty of assets ready for multivariate testing

While multivariate creative testing won’t help you cure your current ad’s case of true creative fatigue, it will continuously help you find the next winning ad to replace it with. 

You'll better understand which creative elements drive ad performance, which makes scaling the right ad creative that much easier. 

Let your goal be your guide

At the end of the day, all that truly matters is how your ad performs against your original goal — no matter how many people have seen it. If you’re hitting your goal, amazing. Keep that ad running. If you’re starting to see performance wane a bit, it might be time for something new. 

Start testing at the first hint of performance decline. Since it can take longer to get data and learnings now, you’ll need a runway longer than a few days to see where your next up-and-coming winner might come from.

And that’s why redefining creative fatigue feels so important. The original definition feels more like a scare tactic than a true measure of performance.

True creative fatigue is nothing worth panicking over — it’s simply a signal that it’s time for a pivot.

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