Frequency Capping Won’t Get Solved Anytime Soon

State Farm is wasting money because of frequency cap violations… and that’s okay

The ability to implement a universal frequency cap is one of the major selling points of consolidating programmatic buying with a single DSP. And in practice, DSPs are pretty good at frequency cap enforcement. But they are not perfect, and solving those last few fringe cases that cause frequency cap violations just isn’t a priority.

Here’s what’s happening in the screenshot to the left. When I visit, Weather’s SSP conducts multiple concurrent auctions — one for each ad slot on the page. State Farm’s bidder evaluates each bid request independently without considering the possibility that it might win all four auctions. Because I am in State Farm’s retargeting pool, State Farm bids aggressively and wins all four ad slots. It is entirely possible State Farm implemented a 3-per day frequency cap, and in a single page view, this frequency cap is violated.

Could DSPs solve this problem? Sure. There are lots of potential solutions — sequencing bid responses, checking for concurrent bid requests, or potentially utilizing optional bid parameters to link multiple auctions. But in the context of broader ad tech development opportunities, this fringe case just isn’t a priority. Both buy side and sell side technology developers simply have more interesting problems to solve.

State Farm could probably save some money if its bidder had smarter logic to prevent roadblocks. But it can also unlock lots of new use cases by allowing its technology partners to continue pursuing needle-moving development. For now, let’s focus on real innovation. Tweaking can come later.