Research Digest

When Creative Variation Demands Variation


  • Viewers only pay attention to commercials only 25% of the time (eight seconds total) when creative is aired repeatedly within a five-minute period
  • Viewers spend 14% more time when repeat ads are spaced more than five minutes apart
  • 15-second ads maintain viewer attention through nearly half the ad, no matter how quickly creatives were repeated.

One challenge all marketers face is getting their brand front and center of their target audience. But staying memorable and holding their interest is a whole other beast—therein lies the secret to success: producing engaging creative that is compelling enough to keep customers coming back, yet retaining a sense of intrigue. The questions still remain—is there such a thing as too much creative variation? Is there a sweet spot that advertisers should aim for when planning their campaigns? This article aims to answer these questions and more, and provides research backed insights to help performance marketers switch up their creative and avoid the dreaded creative fatigue effect.

Ad Frequency Trumps Ad Pod Placement on Connected TV

It’s not only ad creative that matters, but how frequently an ad is repeated. Research conducted by TVision found that viewers pay less attention to repeat CTV ads when they are aired close together. Viewers only held their attention to eight seconds of the total ad (25% of the time) if the same creative aired multiple times within a five-minute period. However, if ads were spaced more than five minutes apart, viewers spent 14% more time on screen.

Meanwhile, 15-second ads maintained attention through half the ad, no matter how often the ad was repeated, however longer 30- and 60- second ads were five to six times more likely to maintain CTV viewer’s attention when the same creative was repeated within five minutes of airing.

When looking at ad pod positioning, research found that ads that play first during the commercial break garner more attention than the same ad aired later in the same ad pod. However, interestingly, there is little variance between first-in-pod, mid-pod or last-in-pod positioning—a nod to CTV’s engaging format to keep viewer’s eyes on screen. Lastly, there is a small increase in attention from mid- to last-in-pod, suggesting that viewers ‘time’ their attention when they know the ad break is about to come to an end.

Diversify and Conquer Your Connected TV Creative

Variety is the spice of life, but when advertising is concerned—it’s the main ingredient. However, brands often misunderstand the meaning of creative variation. It doesn’t mean producing multiple Connected TV ad spots. The savvier approach is to create one ad spot with subtle variations to not only aid in A/B testing, but provide enough repetition for recall without driving ad fatigue. 

Consider this: 65% of the population are visual learners, and people retain 80% of what they see versus 20% of what they read and 10% of what they hear. Therefore one approach could be to heavy up on consistent visuals for recall, but switching up music and/or voiceover for appeal. Let’s take the most recognizable GEICO ad for example—no one could forget the famous gecko character who has starred in 150 commercials over the past 20 years. The brand has kept their ‘star’ as a core element in every one of their ads, instead varying the script each time to keep their brand fresh, retaining the connection with their core audience and minimizing creative fatigue. 

Additionally, brands should consider leveraging creators in their advertisements—not in the same vein as User-Generated-Content, rather leaning on a pre-existing community of content creators that already have a strong following that is aligned with a brand’s target audience.

Ultimately, being able to scale creative variation is key, which is why brands are quickly turning to solutions and technology to help automate the process. For example, some Connected TV advertising software, such as MNTN’s, utilize machine learning and AI to automatically determine the time and place to serve the highest performing CTV ad. Depending on how many creative variations you have at your disposal, this provides valuable insights that can be applied to future campaigns (or help determine which creative variants are making the most impact).


Ad fatigue is a big problem in the advertising industry, and Connected TV is not an exception. Research shows that a high ad frequency is more likely to turn a viewer off a brand than ad pod placement, suggesting that Connected TV’s high-definition, high-impact format is well adept at engaging viewers no matter where a CTV ad is placed within an ad break. There are steps that brands should keep in mind when looking to vary their ad creative without wasting valuable resources—this includes keeping visual elements consistent and varying auditory elements, utilizing creator networks and advertising technology solutions to streamline the process.

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