What can you do in 3 seconds? Think fast. That's as much time as you get to get a customer to stop scrolling and click on your ad. Not only that, the lifespan for digital ads is shrinking right along with attention spans. Time's up! Learn what you can do to stem the passing of time.
According to the Marketing Rule of 7, audiences must see an ad or campaign a minimum of 7 times before taking action.
Know when this rule came into play? It was 1930. Radio was in its prime and television was in its infancy. Fast forward (nearly 100 years!) to the digital era where the lifespan of your ads is shrinking at breakneck speeds—right along with attention spans.
The 3-Second Rule is the new sheriff in town—racing in on the backs of social media, display and the entire wild, wild west that is digital marketing.
Not only do you have less than three seconds to keep someone from scrolling right past your ads—audiences can easily see your messaging up to seven times in one day or even a few hours. (For comparison, the infamous 15 minutes of fame is 900 seconds.)
With automated targeting and other advances leveling playing fields, your marketing creative is your fountain of youth and holy grail.
Without further ado, let’s get to it. Here’s what we’ll cover in this article.
The definition of “ad lifespan” is exactly what you’d instinctively think it would be. It’s how long an ad is viable or effective. Lifespan and the factors that affect it play a fundamental role in digital ad performance.
While paid acquisition embraced by performance marketers is one of the fastest ways to grow, it’s also one of the quickest ways to shorten the shelf-life of your ads. In fact, the more you increase your ad spend—especially in programmatic campaigns—the faster your ad performance drops.
When you understand the factors at play, you know what to watch for and, more importantly, how to respond.
Legendary actor James Dean, famous for his role in the film Rebel Without a Cause died tragically in a traffic accident at the age of 24. The blink-of-an-eye lifespan for digital ads is no accident and the causes are well known. Time, attention and market factors are directly responsible for extinguishing a digital ad’s life force faster than it takes for the latest tips on AI to rank on Google.
Over time, performance for any ad on any channel will decline. Unlike the bucolic days of broadcast and print campaigns, digital ad campaigns have much shorter lifespans because digital media is constantly changing and expanding. (#understatement)
According to this scatological phenomenon, while novelty invokes an immediate response, it fades just as quickly. First-to-market advantage never lasts because competitors are just as fast to follow your lead and copy your tactics. Finally, the more you scale your marketing efforts, the harder it gets to earn qualified leads as your early-adopter glory days fade into the sunset—along with your click-through rates (CTRs).
With attention spans shrinking, it’s not only harder to capture someone’s attention, repetition, ad spend and exposure all have diminishing effects.
The more an audience sees the same ads over and over, the more ad fatigue becomes a factor and the more likely your ad will be ignored. In fact, you’ll start to see a drop in impact in as few as 3 views.
In one study, Meta found that mobile users were spending only 1.7 seconds on Facebook's News Feed content. And this was in 2016!
When marketers actively compete for increasingly fickle interests, audiences get saturated with so many different messages that they start to tune everything out.
As if only having nanoseconds to capture someone's attention wasn't enough, the nature of your audience along with changes in market trends and consumer behavior can also impact how quickly your ads become ineffective. For example, if you're targeting smaller B2B audiences, it's even easier for ad fatigue and audience saturation to kick in. Or how dare you assume a millennial with Gen X?
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Tracking metrics and paying close attention to your customers can help signal when your ads may have reached their golden years. However, the one variable with the most impact on campaign performance is the quality and cadence of your creative.
Impressions, clicks, click-through rates, conversions, engagement rates and other performance metrics are the canaries in the coal mine for digital ad lifespans.
Diligent and persistent measurement and analysis will show when effectiveness starts to decline. The more data you gather and the longer you’ve been doing it—the more likely you’ll also be able to detect key patterns that affect the health of your ads.
Being aware of the size of your audience, their demographics and psychographics helps you identify which digital channels to target, what you need to say and if you can do so profitably by recovering your cost-per-acquisition (CPA).
As most performance and social media marketers are away, each digital channel is quite granular. What works on LinkedIn won't fly, if at all, on TikTok. Being Insta-famous is different that being part of the Twitterati. In other words, there are written and unwritten rules that impact ad performance.
Social listening, reading the comments on your ads and keeping a constant ear to the ground for what's influencing your customers and where you reach them helps you stay ahead of the curve in a world where things can change in a split second or less.
Did we mention that you need to do this fast? Like some of your ads may have even passed while you read this sentence fast. 🔥
Measurement and how quickly you can see results—or lack thereof—is one of the main benefits of performance marketing. However, one of the biggest findings is that up to 75% of campaign performance is a direct result of the quality of the creative.
It's not just new creative. Ads must continually be refined and refreshed on a weekly and sometimes daily basis—and performance marketers must also keep testing and exploring new channels.
In addition to recognizing and embracing trends like user-generated-content-style video (UGC-style video) and future-proof by integrating augmented reality (AR) and 3D techniques. Then there's the plot twist of knowing when to go against the grain.
Truth: As I'm writing this post, people have now started talking about using static ads to stand out against everyone who's running video. 🤯
⬆️ Hear Amrita Mathur, VP of Marketing at Superside, explain why the only way to really bring down your customer acquisition cost (CAC) and continually reach the same audience over and over is through using really great creative and testing that really great creative.
For every action, there's an equal or opposite reaction. The more savvy performance marketers find ways to drive growth, the more creative they need. But unless you've built your perfect droid army and given them roles in your creative team, it's not humanly possible to keep up.
A majority of creative teams, 82% say demand for creative just keeps increasing. When you're versioning and testing multiple channels, it's a trend that's not going to change anytime soon.
When marketers can't get the performance creative they need, the potential for these concepts, refinements and experiments to fuel growth vanishes without a trace.
As the lifespan of digital ads shortens, so does the window of opportunity for you to respond. Last time you checked, no one's effectively scaled telepathy... yet.
In the meantime, you need high volumes of creative at speed-of-light velocities. The flexibility to navigate ebbs and flows and pricing that's not out of this world would be nice too. Sounds like science fiction?
Superside has helped hundreds of brands, like Amazon, Reddit and Puma, scale high-octane creative, make the most of every dollar, and fuel growth. We fit seamlessly into your workflows, so you can get the creative you need, when you need it—on time, on-demand and on budget.
Michelle enjoys learning from and empowering ambitious marketers and creatives focused on scaling design and fueling growth.🚀 With more than two decades of experience, she’s worked at both agencies and in-house teams at companies of all sizes in the United States and Canada. She began her career as an advertising copywriter, remastering these skills as a content marketer and becoming a subject matter expert on everything from frozen pies and financial statements to SaaS and now CaaS. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
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