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How to Advertise During a Recession (5 Winning Strategies)

how to advertise in a recession

The US Federal Reserve now projects the nation’s economy will fall into a mild recession before the end of 2023, according to the minutes of their most recent FOMC meeting in March.

It’s no secret that businesses face unique challenges during a recession. With consumer spending at an all-time low and the competition becoming more fierce, the need for an effective advertising strategy is crucial. In this guide, we’ll share five essential tips to help your business flourish during an economic downturn.

How worried are marketers about a recession?

To gain a better understanding of marketers’ plans during this recession, we conducted a survey of nearly 200 advertising media buyers (see full methodology at the bottom of this article).

In our survey, 44%, of marketers responded that they were somewhat or very concerned about a slowing economy in the next 12 months. This presents an opportunity for those that position themselves ahead of time and can react more quickly when the moment arrives.

Chart 1: How concerned are advertisers about a recession? 

How will advertisers adjust their marketing channels?

In this question, most respondents said they would reduce their budgets a little, however, there was some slight variation among Business-to-Consumer (B2C) and Business-to-Business (B2B) marketers.

Some B2C respondents said they would increase their spend especially those that worked in consumer staple industries – such as groceries, home goods, and alcohol.

B2B marketers had a more mixed response with some stating they’d reduce their spend while others said they’d increase it significantly.

Chart 2: How marketers will adjust their ad spend during a recession.

For marketing mix, there was a diverse set of responses, but traditional media (such as TV, radio, print), SEO and affiliate marketing is where marketers responded they would reduce their budgets the most.

Conversely, they would increase their spend on social media, digital marketing, and content marketing.

Chart 3: How marketers will adjust their marketing mix.

Advertisers also use a lot of tools and software to help them analyze results and make decisions. They reported that social media and PR tools would be the ones they would be most likely to keep if their budgets were reduced in a recession. 

Chart 4: Which tools will marketers use during a recession

fraud blocker research paper

Special report: 22% of ad spend is lost to fraud

This in-depth report was produced by independent research firm Juniper Research who analyzed over 78,000 datasets of digital ad activity.

5 strategies to advertise during a recession

Based on the results of our survey, here are some advertising strategies to consider to help you take advantage of an economic downturn.

1. Embrace Digital-Focused Marketing

In times of economic hardship, it’s important to maximize your marketing budget by focusing on cost-effective digital channels and analytics. These can include:
  • Social Media Marketing: Engage with your audience on popular platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn (top result in our survey above)
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Optimize your website for search engines by targeting relevant keywords, improving site speed, and creating valuable content. Boost these efforts to build your organic traffic when paid advertising may not be as effective.
  • Content Marketing: Create informative and engaging content to establish your brand as an authority and drive organic traffic.
  • Email Marketing: Leverage email campaigns to nurture leads, announce promotions, and maintain customer loyalty.
  • Performance marketing campaigns – focus on lead-generation and high-performing analytics that closely monitor Cost-Per-Lead (CPL), Return-on-Ad-Spend (ROAS), Lifetime Value (LTV) and other performance-based metrics.

2. Target the Right Audience

During a recession, it’s essential to understand your target audience and their needs. This will enable you to tailor your advertising strategy accordingly.
  • Expand your Retargeting to Loyal Customers: Use retargeting ads to re-engage visitors who have already shown interest in your brand, increasing the likelihood of conversion.
  • Invest in High-Value Clients: Concentrate your efforts on retaining loyal customers who have the greatest potential for repeat business.
  • Recruit Brand Ambassadors: Discover your most loyal users and offer them strong incentives to promote your brand to their network.

3. Advertise while others are pausing

As we saw in our survey results above, most advertisers are planning on reducing their budgets during a recession. Less ad spend reduces demand for inventory and can reduce the costs of advertising.

For example, if there are less businesses competing for a search term on Google Ads, then the cost-per-click (CPC) will be lower. Similarly, less demand for outdoor billboard space will reduce the costs per unit.

4. Optimize your campaigns and remove ad fraud

To maximize the impact of your advertising efforts, it’s vital to monitor your campaigns and make data-driven decisions.
  • Remove your ad fraud – ad fraud losses are expected to exceed $84 billion in 2023. Our click fraud prevention software can help block the fraud in your campaigns from bots, click farms and other harmful sources to improve your overall advertising performance.
  • Track Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Monitor metrics such as click-through rates, conversion rates, and return on ad spend to gauge campaign effectiveness.
  • Conduct A/B Testing: Test different ad creatives, headlines, and targeting options to determine which combinations yield the best results.
  • Adjust Your Strategy: Use the insights gained from your data analysis to refine your campaigns and improve your overall marketing strategy.

5. Adapt your messaging; build trust

In a recession, it’s crucial to adjust your messaging to resonate with your audience’s current mindset. Consider the following tips:
  • Emphasize Value: Focus on the benefits and cost savings that your product or service offers.
  • Build Trust: Demonstrate your commitment to customer satisfaction by showcasing positive reviews, case studies, and testimonials. According to a poll, 46% of Americans would be willing to pay more for products they could trust.
  • Highlight Flexibility: Offer flexible payment options, discounts, or incentives to make your products or services more accessible during challenging times.
Advertising during a recession may be challenging, but it presents unique opportunities for businesses willing to adapt and innovate. By embracing digital marketing channels, targeting the right audience, adapting your messaging, remove ad fraud from your campaigns and continuing to advertise while others stop, then you can position your brand for success during an economic downturn. Implement these strategies to stay ahead of the competition and emerge stronger once the recession subsides.

Survey Methodology: The Fraud Blocker survey was conducted by Pollfish and concluded on November 25, 2022. It was sent to a randomized group of PPC marketers and media buyers in the US, Canada and the UK who purchased, or managed the purchase of, digital advertising. 161 respondents completed the survey. Pollfish is a leading survey company with a pool of over 480 million mobile audience members worldwide that participate in their surveys.


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