Effective Frequency: Reaching Full Campaign Potential

Reaching your audience with relevant messaging and effective creative can help you achieve your objectives. But it’s also important to think about frequency. Whether it’s to drive ad recall or influence a purchase decision, how should advertisers decide the right level of frequency when planning Facebook campaigns?

Facebook Marketing Science conducted experimental research to help brand marketers evaluate how to approach frequency planning on digital. We examined how frequency planning can provide marketers with opportunities to drive greater brand impact. We also looked at where this impact may be sacrificed through insufficient frequency levels and the implications for advertisers of all sizes and with a variety of objectives. Read on for topline findings from our research and download the white paper for an expanded discussion of our analysis and what it means for marketers.


Facebook Marketing Science conducted a global meta-analysis between January 2015 and February 2016 and aggregated the results from these 11 brand advertiser campaigns across Europe, North America, Asia Pacific and Latin America. These campaigns were representative of large brand advertisers with high market share and share of voice for their categories and markets.  

To study the effects of different frequency levels, we created a multi-cell test plan in which we randomized the campaign target audience into one of four non-overlapping frequency buckets 1) control, 2) low frequency, 3) medium frequency and 4) high frequency.

All campaigns were set up consistently to facilitate the subsequent meta-analysis:

  • Reach-optimized brand campaign using Facebook’s reach and frequency buying tool
  • Each campaign was three to four weeks in length and included a restricted number of different creative assets
  • Each campaign was either video or display, but not mixed, and had a total reach of 4.5 million+ (1.5 million+ reach in each exposed cell)

To understand the impact of frequency of exposure on breakthrough and purchase behavior, we ran brand polls on Facebook to collect data on ad recall and purchase intent brand metrics for each frequency study and aggregated these results into a meta-analysis.


Frequency levels and their relation to brand impact

First, we explored the causal relationship between brand lift and frequency level. Through our analysis, we saw that lift for ad recall and purchase intent both increased with the frequency of exposure. Where the lift in ad recall slowed substantially after a frequency cap of 1 per week, the lift in purchase intent did not start to slow until close to a frequency cap of 1.5 per week. This result supports the hypothesis that higher frequencies are needed to impact greater behavior change, such as purchase intent.

To better understand the benefits of frequency planning, we examined the total brand lift in ad recall and purchase intent that may be realized at different weekly frequency caps. Through this we were able to better understand the marginal gains in brand lift and estimate the potential lost brand impact from an insufficient amount of exposure.

As the chart below shows, a low-frequency reach strategy can generate some impact, but it is a sub-optimal approach when trying to meet a campaign’s full potential impact.



With a frequency cap of 1 per week it was possible to capture up to 80% of the total potential brand lift in ad recall. There was substantial benefit of a higher frequency cap for purchase intent, with a frequency cap of 2 per week capturing 95% of the total potential brand lift.

In the instances for these advertisers, campaigns with insufficient frequency levels resulted in substantial brand impact being sacrificed.  As we’ve shown here, for brand recall and purchase intent there is an effective frequency level to hit to capture the largest percentage of the total possible campaign impact. Consideration of reach at effective frequency levels should be part of the campaign planning process no matter the campaign objective.


Market, message and media factors and their influence on frequency

For brand advertisers with a large market share and high base levels of brand awareness, a frequency cap of at least 1 to 2 per week was able to capture a substantial portion of the total potential brand impact.

The results of our meta-analysis can help brands of similar characteristics better plan for frequency on Facebook. While there is no “magic frequency level” that we can prescribe for every brand and campaign, there are various factors that should be taken into account to determine an effective frequency level.



For example, a high-frequency strategy may be beneficial for brands that are new, have a low market share or are running shorter campaigns. These market, message and media factors all influence the effective frequency level and should be taken into account during the campaign planning process.


What it means for marketers

Planning for effective reach and frequency is a standard practice for traditional broad reach mediums and there is value in applying similar practices to digital mediums, especially now that marketers have the power to fine tune who they reach and how often they reach them.

Marketers can get the most impact from their campaigns by planning for reach at the most effective level of frequency with consideration of the associated market, message and media factors.

Frequency matters. Higher frequencies are required to impact greater behavior change, such as purchase intent. Marketers should plan for reach at a sufficient frequency with consideration of their campaign objectives.

Campaigns need to be measured in terms of total impact. There is a causal relationship between frequency and brand lift, and marketers who plan with this in mind will have the opportunity to capture the full potential of their campaign.

Plan campaign frequency with market, message and media factors in mind. There is no one-size fits all frequency level to suit the requirements of every brand and campaign. Marketers should consider their market, message and media factors when planning for frequency to realize the largest impact for their campaigns.