Creative Fatigue: How Often Should I Update Creative?
When it comes to digital campaign performance, there is a silent killer that often goes overlooked: creative fatigue.
Every ad has a shelf life — people get tired of seeing the same ad over and over again. As intuitive as this fact is, we see it ignored all too often.
To execute a successful campaign, you need to know about creative fatigue, how to fix it and how to avoid it altogether.
What is creative fatigue?
Creative fatigue is a situation where an audience has seen the same ad too many times and no longer responds. It’s accompanied by a generalized dip in performance.
A similar term you may have seen floating around is “ad fatigue,” coined by Facebook. Corey Waldron, Account Manager at LumenAd, describes the difference between ad fatigue and creative fatigue as:
- Creative fatigue: when your audience sees the same creative too many times.
- Ad fatigue: when your audience sees ads from a certain brand too many times.
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Aren’t ads and creatives the same thing?
Newsflash: advertising terms are confusing. In terms of their actual definitions, “ad” and “creative” are not different.
In this use case — defining the different types of fatigue audiences might feel — “creative” in “creative fatigue” refers to an individual unit of advertising. For instance, one unique display ad run populated on various sites. “Ad” in “ad fatigue” refers to the ads as a group.
Ad fatigue is mostly associated with Facebook alone, while creative fatigue applies to all channels and platforms. When it comes to ad fatigue, you’ll want to look at frequency (among other things) to ensure you’re not bombarding your audience with ads.
Creative fatigue can be a simpler fix: update the creative.
But how do you know that this needs to happen?
What are indicators of creative fatigue?
The main indicator of creative fatigue is a persistent dip in performance that you can’t seem to shake. What this looks like depends on the channel. Jackson Ottman, Ad Operations Specialist at LumenAd, provides a few examples:
- For display advertising, you may see a decrease in the click-through rate.
- On Facebook, if you’re driving landing page views, you may see a decrease in visits and time spent on the page.
- For video, you might see a drop in completion rates.
- Maybe the CPA is rising, so you start thinking about tweaking the CTA.
If this sounds vague, that’s because it is. Jackson goes on to say that, “Identifying creative fatigue is based on intuition. If you’re optimizing a campaign day in and day out, you’ll start to notice the persistent dip in performance.”
Using LumenAd, he’ll check the raw data for trends. He says, “I’ll try a lot of adjustments, like shutting off an audience here or there, and by process of elimination, the issue gets narrowed down to creative fatigue.”
You can only do so much strategy-wise before the real problem becomes apparent: the creative isn’t working anymore.
What can cause creative fatigue?
There are a few situations that can make campaigns particularly prone to creative fatigue:
- Small geos
If you’re running a campaign in a small area, keep a tight lock on frequency. Otherwise, everyone in Thurston County is going to start tuning out your creative.
- Design trends
“Audiences get bored with things quickly,” says LumenAd designer Tessa Millhollin. Your creative doesn’t need to be cutting edge, but you should avoid the “more of the same” syndrome.
Summery creative in the depths of fall has the potential to be tuned out very quickly, let alone once winter comes around. This also applies to holidays, big sporting events, etc.
How often should I update creative?
“You should not have a creative run longer than three months,” says Corey. In most cases, you’ll want to update creative way more often — Facebook recommends every one to two weeks.
If you have a campaign with a high frequency over three months, creative fatigue will set in fast. Always keep a pulse on frequency and geo.
One solution is to use a dynamic creative, which will ensure your creative is fully optimized and never goes stale. Dynamic creative technology through DSPs allows you to upload a set of images, colors, copy, CTAs and more. The DSP will then mix and match to find the best combination.
Facebook’s creative optimization is free but it doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles. DSPs may have their own creative optimization technology or vendors, “But,” Corey says, “it usually comes with a hefty price tag.”
How do I fix creative fatigue?
Update Your Existing Creative
Do not reinvent the wheel. Yet.
Corey explains, “Often when I talk about creative fatigue or creative swaps, people think they need to rethink the whole creative concept. You don’t need a new concept unless performance is really tanking. Try the low hanging fruit first.”
What is that low hanging fruit? Here are a few examples:
- Change the colors of the ad.
- Test different headline variations.
- Tweak ad copy.
- Use different images, preferably people-focused images.
- Use a new CTA.
Just changing the background from blue to yellow, or swapping out your winter photo to a summer photo can do the trick.
Add New Creative
When you think about adding new creative, Jackson says, “Generally, the audience size and budget are pretty fixed in a campaign. So that leaves us with only one real lever to pull in order to achieve a lower frequency: expanding the number of creatives.”
As we established above, you don’t need an entirely new concept for this new group of creative, you just need them to be different enough to pop.
How do I avoid creative fatigue?
Think about how prone your campaign is creative fatigue. A couple things to keep in mind include
- Audience size: the fewer people you target the faster all of them will see your ads.
- Budget: the more money you spend, the faster you will cover your audience.
- Number of creatives: the more ads you show, the less likely it is for someone to see the same one on their next impression.
Understanding each of these will help you triage optimizations down the road.
Proper Creative Prep
Think about creating a spreadsheet with all creatives listed out along with a firm plan to rotate creative.
Say you have ten different creatives, then you would assign a certain amount to October and the rest to November. Bam. Your chances of encountering creative fatigue are now way lower.
Another thing to think about is the length of your campaign. If it’s a short campaign, you might make creative in one go. If you have a longer campaign that runs through a couple months, budget time to make new creative down the road. Say, once a month, you could pull insights and optimize creative.
Prepare your creative for testing from the get-go. Here’s an example Corey laid out:
Say you want to hit three different markets with Display. At minimum, you should have two distinct ad sets per market to test and see which one performs better. This means you’ll have six distinct ad sets for Display.
By setting up your creative in this way, you’ll make it easier in the long run to identify when specific creatives have run out of steam and how to head off creative fatigue before it becomes a problem.
Creative fatigue affects even the best laid campaign plans. Know what it is, how to spot and what to do about it is an invaluable tool for modern marketers.
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