Why We Cannot Miss The Mark On Ad Frequency Capping In The Post-Cookie Era

Arnaud Blanchard Criteo

Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Arnaud Blanchard, Product Director, Criteo.

As a marketer, would you rather show two identical ads to the same consumer or the same ad one time each to two different consumers?

The answer to that question depends not only on your campaign goals but on several underlying factors: who the specific consumers are, what their interests are, time of day and location. Even if you change two to 10 in this hypothetical scenario, the answer will still likely change depending on these details. You eventually might start to wonder whether increasing your reach is more important than driving a conversion.

But let’s face it: Consumers don’t want to see the same ad during every commercial break of their favorite show, especially not to the point where they can memorize the script of the ad. The same goes for ads online. Marketers today already face significant challenges, particularly as it relates to improving consumers’ attitudes toward advertising; poor frequency capping only exacerbates these challenges.

Frequency capping is the most basic, universal control for digital advertising. It is essential to improving user experience, ad quality, brand safety and advertising effectiveness. So why are we engaging in this dialogue now?

The industry has been on the hunt over the past year to replace the third-party cookie with a permanent, privacy-safe solution for digital advertising, exploring several identity-centric options, or even generic cohorts such as FLoC. While these solutions are potentially viable, they have a surprising lack of frequency capping features. And there is simply too much at stake in the post-cookie world for the industry to miss the mark on frequency capping.

For starters, marketers using solutions such as cohorts through FLoC will not be able to control the ad exposure the way they have been able to on the open web. Sure, there might be some statistical means to mitigate ad exposure levels on average, but there will still be consumers who are greatly overexposed.

Proponents of this approach will claim that they will continue to be able to observe an individual consumer’s exposure to ads, but the reality is consumers visit more than one website. If we do not address the issue of frequency capping in the post-cookie world, marketers will never be certain that the rules have been correctly applied, even more so across the web.

The consequences are clear: Unable to ensure frequency capping across a range of sites, major advertisers will only use a few vendors (likely walled gardens) to guarantee that their brand is safe and their advertising is effective. Even more importantly, turning to only a select few walled gardens will mean most publishers will be left out of the crucial advertising subsidies that enable their free content.

Of course, no one ever said frequency capping was easy; it’s actually something the entire industry has been working to solve for years. But if we do not address it within the larger context of identity solutions or generic cohorts like FLoC, we will be regressing as an industry. Consumers want increased privacy, but they also want a high-quality browsing experience. If browsing experiences deteriorate due to poor frequency capping, people will turn to ad blockers, limiting content, choice and product discovery across the open web.

Despite these hardships, I still have faith that we can drive improved privacy and improved online browsing experiences simultaneously. In fact, browsers are in an ideal position to create a frequency capping tool that would benefit their users and marketers alike. Marketers do not need people’s emails to stop overexposing them with the same ads; they just need browsers to take the lead here.

As an industry, we all have a collective responsibility to shine a light on how overexposed ads will impede consumers’ experiences online while also creating flawed performance and diminished brand reputation for advertisers.

Now is the time to have these discussions and push for change so we can ensure all potential identity solutions solve this issue. Ignoring it poses too many risks for advertisers in terms of their brand reputation and wasted budget, and for consumers in terms of their browsing experiences. Ultimately, neither users nor advertisers benefit from poor frequency capping, so why shouldn’t we be screaming from the rooftop about it?

Follow Criteo (@Criteo) and AdExchanger (@AdExchanger) on Twitter.


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1 Comment

  1. Jordan

    This is the number one problem in advertising, not just for advertisers, but also for consumers (ask anyone, it’s their first complaint). The industry (and Google) have been strangely quiet on this subject- so I am glad someone is saying something.
    It feels to me the answer should be in FLEDGE, not FLOC. With an auction happening at a browser level, it doesn’t feel like a big step for some kind of local storage which could track which ads have been seen and how many times- possibly with some control to stop over-frequency.