Performance Marketing Marketing Ad Spend

Back to basics: how can marketers keep generating results in a recession?

By yasmin williams



The Drum Network article

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May 4, 2023 | 8 min read

How can paid media marketers deliver results amid the economic slump? Yasmin Williams of digital growth agency Impression gives some pointers.

Someone playing with jenga blocks

In the recession, paid media marketers must embrace the long game to see results / Our Life in Pixels

We are facing some of the most challenging circumstances we’ve seen in recent history. The global economic downturn caused a recession that has impacted businesses of all sizes and industries across the world. It's vital that we adapt our marketing strategies to respond to changing consumer needs and behaviors.

Our research at Impression has identified the cost-of-living crisis to be the biggest business challenge that advertisers are set to face this year, despite 84% of businesses targeting revenue growth.

To achieve ambitious targets during continued economic uncertainty, marketing strategies must evolve and adapt. This begs the question: how do we need to adjust our plans to better serve our consumer’s needs? Let’s first hone in on the biggest challenges we’re currently facing as an industry.

Understanding your customer and their needs

Consumer shopping behavior is vastly different now than in 2019 and, while looking back on past data is still essential, we can’t use it as robustly to predict trends.

Selecting the right channels

With many businesses feeling the crunch, marketing budgets are being spent more strategically. Knowing your audience and where they’re genuinely spending their time is paramount.

Spending your budget efficiently

Establishing the right channels for your market is only half the battle. Time and time again, I find myself auditing paid media accounts that are limiting things to such an extent that budgets aren’t being spent in a way that maximizes output.

Benchmarking your performance

The goalposts for benchmarking success are no longer a simple ‘year-on-year’ growth metric, and short-term, quick-win views will usually only direct you to spend less and save pennies, potentially hindering next year’s growth further. Here are some key considerations to help your business adapt.

Objective setting & strategic frameworks

If there’s a time for resetting and re-strategizing, it’s now, and everything needs a goal. For most, the goal is growth. So how do we look at this objective, and ladder it down into a framework?

If your business needs a revenue increase of 15% over the course of the next 12 months; great. But how can we attach micro-objectives to this to give us something tangible to work towards?

Drive greater brand awareness to generate long-term growth; increase the efficiency of performance channels; and diversify your activity split by testing on new channels. These provide tangible methods of generating that growth, each of which can have its own individual metrics and milestones attached.

Understand your audience & invest accordingly

You need to select the right channels and audience for your objectives. To form your decision-making, first-party and third-party data should be consulted throughout this process. Focus on trying to understand what isn’t working now, and what used to. These areas present opportunities to re-strategize your marketing mix.

Use the right tactics for your channel

Advertisers regularly fall into the trap of using ill-suited tactics in their campaigns related to their business goals. So I’ve outlined some principles that should be considered across the board.

Test, learn, repeat

If you want to win, you have to be willing to lose. Adopt a robust test-and-learn framework across any and every channel you’re running. Pick small, tangible areas where you can ascertain what’s working for you (or prove aren’t). Creative, audiences, spend, etc.

The creative for your customer

This is an area where we see advertisers slipping up. Those not willing to adjust tactics according to trends are falling by the wayside. Enlist the help of creative experts and try something new if you need to.


You need to understand what you’re willing to pay for a user depending on where they are in their journey. Ensure that you’re approaching users with the right message according to what stage of the journey you believe them to be in sets you apart. ‘One size fits all’ brand-led taglines aren’t the way to go.

Allow your activity time to work

We have to paint a holistic and accurate view of performance, in line with our objective framework and inputting reasonable and long-term KPIs in line with your goals is a key requirement.

To expand on the micro-objectives mentioned earlier, we need long-term results that hold accountability:

Drive greater brand awareness to generate long-term growth; a brand uplift study conducted across six months; post-trialed cold-audience investment on YouTube and TikTok; traffic increase in six months, attributed to brand awareness channels; increase the efficiency of performance channels; improvements in ROAS across paid search campaigns; diversify activity by testing new channels; cold/warm audience test on YouTube; and measure site traffic.

Short-term marketing activity isn’t going to break the mold overnight. Allow yourself to take a long-term approach to set yourself up for success.

Performance Marketing Marketing Ad Spend

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