When Uber turned off $120 million in advertising to drive more app installs, they saw NO CHANGE in their app downloads. P&G saw no change in business outcomes when they turned off $200 million of their digital ad spending. When big brands decreased their digital ad budgets, nothing happened.
What does this mean? Does it mean that digital advertising doesn’t work, or does it mean something else?
Marketers’ obsession with Big Numbers has much to do with what’s wrong with digital advertising today. Big numbers of ads and clicks do not necessarily result in more business activity and sales. Marketers could be getting the same business outcomes with far fewer marketing dollars spent. Spending the dollars more smartly on digital, they would be more successful in getting business outcomes than they are now.
In 2020, the world was stricken with a deadly pandemic. Some brands paused digital ad spending because of this event since they saw no change in business outcomes. As a result, they can be very selective in what spending they turn back on because those expenses were not driving incremental business anyway. Other advertisers decreased the number of websites and mobile apps that displayed their ads by going to a filter list. This prevents virtually all fly-by-night fake sites and mobile apps from charging for their overpriced ads. Through these experiments, marketers found ways to make their digital ads more effective. Small business owners did not need to buy millions of ad impressions if they only bought 1/10 the number—they still got plenty of sales. The old phrase “you get what you pay for” is more applicable than ever in digital marketing.