The decision to scale back or eliminate the advertising budget is never easy for marketers. The decision to "go dark" can have various causes, from a broad economic recession to narrower industry or company-specific revenue or growth challenges. Whatever the cause, "going dark" has both short- and long-term implications.

Background overview

Most empirical findings on the impact of "going dark" reflect marketing choices taken during recessionary periods. However, the insights are also relevant when industry and company-specific factors drive "darkness".

Let's start with the most extreme situation: recession. The economy contracts, most often because consumer spending declines (admittedly some recessions are rooted in business or government spending cutbacks, but we'll focus on consumer contraction here). Top-line sales fall, and, in order to minimize the impact on the bottom-line, budgets get cut. Marketing spending, particularly ad spending, can be one of the first places to feel the scalpel. A wise choice? It depends.