May 2022 – Your audience can skip online ads! How to keep them engaged AND keep costs down by avoiding oversaturation.

This is probably a familiar scenario for you: You open your Digital platform of choice (Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, whatever). You’re bouncing around, enjoying yourself, here comes the first ad… and, womp womp, you’ve seen it 20 times already.  You may have been interested the first few times you saw it, but now?  You roll your eyes and skip it or scroll on by as fast as humanly possible.


In this scenario, Digital advertisers would consider you “oversaturated”. This particular ad has been served to you too many times, and advertisers will see significant diminishing returns every time that ad is  served to you again. Our mascot COMPETEY the Shark attempts to illustrate this phenomenon below.

Graphic of The Digital Ad Saturation Cycle with COMPETEY the Shark illustrated

When oversaturation is reached, two things happen that hurt the effectiveness of the campaign:

  1. Targets skip the ads. All non-Connected TV Digital ad assets are skippable in some form or fashion. You can’t keep serving the same ad over and over again, or your target audience will start to ignore it as much as they can.

  2. You pay more per ad served. Most Digital platforms know when your ad has reached oversaturation. They also know that it is bad for their user experience to keep serving a played out ad on your behalf.  They’ll still do it, but they will make it significantly more expensive for you to serve a played out ad instead of a fresh one.  For example, on Facebook, we see ads that have been served more than 10 times start to have their costs go up as much as 100%.

More Creative = No Oversaturation = Better Digital Campaigns

The saturation point varies by platform and type of ad, but for all of them, the reality is the same: You need to keep your content fresh to maximize the impact of your Digital campaign’s budget.  Successful Digital programs need a higher total volume of creative assets than other mediums like TV. We believe it behooves our clients to allocate more of their total Digital ads budgets to producing enough excellent creative to keep online audiences engaged. Some of the campaigns and causes we work with are used to the old TV mentality of “15% of budgets go to the provider for services, the rest goes to ad buy”. They are often initially uncomfortable with more budget for creative. However, it is absolutely essential that creative stays fresh to ensure: 


  • An online audience stays engaged

  • The platforms don’t start dinging us with higher prices for ruining their user experience.


To learn more about Digital creative best practices, check out our newsletter from last month – How to Make Digital Ads

Crafting Programs that Avoid Oversaturation

You might be thinking “OK, you convinced me that oversaturation is bad.  How does COMPETE ensure that the right number of ads is served to the target audience?” Great question! We’ve spent hundreds of hours noodling on it.  It cuts right to the heart of how we craft our campaigns.  To address the question and begin to craft optimal Digital programs, we have built a Digital Budget Estimator  –  Follow this link here to a Public Use version of it.  There are instructions in the sheet that explain how to use it, but the TLDR is that you can plug in some info about a race – target audience size, total budget, what platforms you want to be on, and how expensive your media market is – and it will spit out the beginnings of a Digital plan based on COMPETE’s best practices and strategic foundations.  The first tab in the Estimator shares high level numbers about a theoretical program, and the second tab shares, line item by line item, what a program might look like, including estimated COMPETE creative fees.  Feel free to give it a try and see what it spits out for your campaign!


The Estimator is powered by a back end spreadsheet that calculates programs based off of estimates for 


  • The Cost Per Thousand Impressions (CPM) for each platform and ad type in our “Primary Ad Platforms”, which is where we focus most of our clients’ Digital ad budgets.

  • The % of the target audience that spends enough time on each platform for us to “Saturate” them over a 10 to 20 day period using cutting edge Digital targeting techniques.

  • The point at which a target audience member becomes “Saturated” on a given platform, given the ad type and user experience of that platform.

Graphic of The Digital Ad Landscape According to COMPETE

Note that the Estimator isn’t perfect – it’s just a starting point. Additionally, for campaigns with target audiences smaller than 15,000 or so, the Estimator will have way too much budget going to creative fees. For campaigns with larger target audiences (150,000 or more), it may have too little for creative, as it may behoove the campaign to split its target audience into different cohorts and serve each cohort entirely different sets of ads with messaging tailored to what is most compelling to them. We will do a lot of program customization beyond what the Estimator initially spits out.

Saturation Nation

Across the country, the most common mistake we see other Poli-Digi firms making is oversaturating their target audience with played out ads. We’ve heard horror stories of campaigns where the same ad was served to the target audience 500 times. Yikes! Using our Estimator and adhering to saturation best practices, we would avoid that mistake from the get go, as we would identify that:


  • We have a large budget that will be able to serve a high frequency of ads to the target audience

  • The audience is going to be served ads well over the “Saturation Point”

  • We should strongly consider making lots more creative and expanding to more ad platforms to increase our programs’ reach and effectiveness.


With election season fast approaching, it’s important to have a Digital partner you can trust to craft programs that work.  Avoiding oversaturation is just one of many strategic foundations COMPETE deploys.  Contact me at the info below if you want to learn more about what goes into our programs and how we can customize them for the particulars of your race.

Zach Mandelblatt

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