Digital Marketing Digital Advertising

What’s next for the future of frequency capping?

By Aaron McKee, CTO

May 11, 2021 | 5 min read

With iOS 14.5 now out in the wild, we’re experiencing the first step in the biggest change the advertising industry has likely ever seen – with the second being the final withdrawal of third-party cookies from Google’s Chrome web browser by 2022.

What’s next for the future of frequency capping?

What’s next for the future of frequency capping?

These new privacy and platform regulations will fundamentally change, and indeed, restrict the industry’s ability to target individual users and track cross-site activity. Many ad industry players are already adapting and preparing for the new reality, however; others may still have their head in the sand when it comes to facing the sheer extent of the disruption that lies ahead.

Apple’s new Ad Tracking Transparency (ATT) pop-up requires apps to seek opt-in consent from consumers before they can share data across different publishers or sites. Blis’ early data is showing that, so far, 33% of consumers who’ve upgraded to iOS 14.5 globally are opting in to have their activity tracked.

On the web browser side of the fence, while browsers such as Safari and Firefox have already blocked the use of third-party cookies, the fact that Chrome accounts for more than 60% of global broswer usage has allowed some agencies to simply divert budget there and maintain business as usual (BAU). But the time for BAU is fast running out.

Without third-party cookies and with fewer individual identifiers from iPhones, aspects of digital marketing that we have come to take for granted – such as frequency capping – are about to be seriously impacted.

We know that consumers appreciate well targeted, relevant, creative advertising, but that they actively dislike too much repetition of the ads they see. Indeed, studies have shown that being exposed to the same ad time and again can actually produce the opposite effect, leaving a consumer with a persisting negative sentiment towards a brand.

Thus frequency capping was born, created to ensure that the same consumer or the same device could only be served the same ad a specified number of times, depending on the advertiser’s desired level of exposure. This is now a standard feature on almost every DSP and media plan. Unfortunately the traditional methods of delivering frequency capping rely heavily on third-party cookies and personal identifiers, which are set to disappear or become more scarce. So, what’s next for the future of frequency capping?

Enter 'flexicapping'

Without traditional tracking capabilities, it’s more difficult to establish a robust view of consumers that transcends individual applications or publishers. The precision of frequency capping as it’s been done up until now, with an advertiser saying they only want to show Consumer A eight ads across the life of a campaign, becomes impossible at the sort of scale advertisers have become used to.

At Blis, we’ve developed a new approach to frequency capping, which we call ‘flexicapping.’ Flexicapping is based on the layering of alternative classes of identifiers that we still have access to, such as publisher or site IDs, IP addresses or Unified IDs, in order to achieve the type of scale advertisers demand. And where opted-in device-specific data is available, we’ll still use it.

Publisher specific identifiers are still important and valid IDs to use to uniquely identify a device, but only within a single publisher or a publisher group. For example, if you're using Angry Birds your device will have a unique identifier, but it will be only available for Angry Birds and its publisher. When you use another app or publisher, you will have another unique identifier. Those identifiers are specifically introduced as a fallback option whenever we’re not able to see a device ID or third-party cookie.

Using alternate identifiers makes sense, as they are unlikely to be affected by Google or Apple changes in future, allowing us to continue to deliver relevant ads to consumers who have opted not to share their device information. Although less robust than what we’ve grown accustomed to, they still provide a high level of control over ad delivery and limit over-exposure. We think this provides a tangible benefit to advertisers, as well as consumers.

At Blis, we think our approach to frequency capping, based on layering the tiers of identifiers that we still have sight of, is likely to be in line with how the wider industry will move. We also believe that a broader industry conversation around frequency capping is needed to plot a way forward that can become the industry standard. It’s also important that this key inflection point is on the agenda of agencies and brands globally, so the challenges can be addressed head on.

Aaron McKee, CTO, Blis

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