What the heck is going on? Big brands turned off millions of dollars of digital ad spending, and saw no change in business outcomes. Small businesses tuned their digital marketing and reduced the number of ad impressions, clicks, and traffic to their sites, but saw business activity go up, instead of down.
Some brands paused digital ad spending in 2020, due to the pandemic. If they saw no change in business outcomes, they can be very selective in what spending they turn back on, because those expenses were not driving incremental business anyway. Other advertisers reduced the number of websites and mobile apps showing their ads by going to a strict include-list. This prevents the vast majority of fly-by-night fake sites and mobile apps from sapping their digital ad budgets. And finally, smart advertisers should run more controlled experiments like eBay did in 2012 and prove to themselves what portion of digital advertising truly drives incremental business outcomes, versus the portion of the spending that is just wasted to bot activity.