Research Digest

Enough (Ads) Is Enough: Avoiding CTV Advertising Over-Exposure


  • The more times a viewer watches a streaming ad, the higher the recall. Those who saw an ad six times in an hour-long viewing session had the highest awareness at a 92% recall, followed by 85% at four exposures, and 64% at one.
  • However, viewers have a limit to how many times they are willing to watch an ad before starting to find the brand annoying — there was a 16% decline in the viewers’ intent to purchase from one exposure to six.
  • Streaming platforms are not immune to this phenomena — 51% of viewers say they will take action to either switch to another streaming service or unsubscribe altogether if they get the same ad too often.
  • As the world of streaming becomes more ad-supported, brands and streaming services will need to be sensitive to ad frequency to avoid annoying the very consumers they want to reach.
  • By working with an ad partner that utilizes automated optimization to yield the best performance outcomes, marketers can know that their campaigns are being optimized in real time to serve ads at an appropriate frequency (and not annoy consumers).

Since the dawn of video, advertisers have sought the perfect balance between serving an ad enough times that a viewer remembers the content and serving so many times that viewers now hate your brand. Now, with ad channels like Connected TV making it easier than ever to track the results of campaigns served on the TV screen, it’s even more imperative that marketers take heed of the ways over-advertising can impact viewer attention and their sentiment towards a brand.

MNTN Research has covered some of the ways ad frequency can affect Connected TV viewers. On the platform side, for example, we know that ad loads have an effect on viewer attention spans. A study from Hub Entertainment Research found that almost half of streamers feel watching five or fewer ads during one show is reasonable — any more than that, and you begin to see decreases in tolerance and attention.

Ad length can also play a role in viewer attention spans, though it’s a lot less impactful than you might think. A study from TVision found that attention for ads lengths 15, 30, and 60 seconds was actually fairly equal, at around a third of viewers each, as seen in the image below. 

Repeated Ad Exposure Improves Recall — But at What Cost?

And now, a new study from Nexxen explores how watching the same ad multiple times during one viewing period impacts awareness. The study exposed participants to varying frequencies of the same ad during a one-hour viewing period — some viewers were served the ad six times, others four or one time. 

Predictably, the more the viewers saw the ad, the better they remembered the content. Those who saw the ad six times had the highest awareness at a 92% recall, followed by 85% at four exposures and 64% at one. 

Unsurprisingly, though, showing the same ad six times during the period of an hour also did not actually endear those viewers to the brands advertised. In fact, they were more likely to describe the ad as “annoying” or “disruptive.” And if that weren’t enough, the difference between showing one ad during a viewing session versus six ads was a 16% decline in viewers’ intention to purchase from the brand advertised.

This is not a new problem for CTV advertisers. The same study found that 87% of viewers feel they see too much of the same ad when watching content on streaming services. Many of those viewers (68%) attribute that level of repetition to the advertisers themselves. 

’Cause We Are Living in an Ad-Supported World

As ad-supported streaming becomes more and more popular and accessible, ad frequency is going to become a bigger issue for brands and platforms alike. This year alone AVOD services are expected to gain more than triple the US viewers of subscription OTT video in 2023. Every one of those AVOD platforms will need a plan to combat ad fatigue for their growing subscriber base to avoid pushing them to other services.

After all, it’s not just brands who get a negative outlook from viewers when an ad is repeated multiple times. “The platforms are suffering too, because people also attribute the fact that this is happening to the platform,” said Kara Manatt, executive VP of Intelligence Solutions at Magna in an interview with Digiday on the Nexxen survey. “It really can be so annoying to people and viewers that they’re willing to find content elsewhere.”

Nexxen found that 44% of CTV viewers believe that streaming services intended to repeat that ad, and that 51% viewers will take action if they get the same ad too often. These actions range from switching to another streaming service for that viewing session, to unsubscribing to that service altogether, as seen in the chart below. 

A Trusted Ad Partner Can Limit Risks

Of course, no brand or platform intends to pummel their audience over the head with advertising, and there are ways to mitigate these negative effects. For streaming services, changing up the order in which ads are served has a major impact on viewer sentiment. 60% of viewers surveyed by Nexxen say they would prefer a long ad break before the show started, with the rest of the TV show uninterrupted by ads. 

For brands, the best way to ensure their audiences’ six exposures take place over time is to work with a trusted ad partner that has automated optimization capabilities. With automated optimization for performance outcomes, the ad platform can identify the ideal ad frequency for campaign success, implement that frequency, and then adjust as needed. In other words, frequency will be a lever rather than a performance metric — allowing marketers to generate the best possible results without alienating consumers.

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