Media Insights

Navigating Media Pauses: How to Reboot with Success

Recent Facebook ad boycotts, budget shifts, and changing social platform dynamics have created new challenges for marketers. Savvy marketers are carefully managing the impact of pausing media spend on performance and customer sentiment.

Learn more about what Ovative clients observed during the recent Facebook ad boycott, questions marketers should be asking during any period of spend pauses, and recommendations to manage performance expectations when spend is turned back on.


Ovative Group’s client base consists of companies of all shapes, sizes, and industries. In July 2020, we observed 27% of clients paused spend for the 7/7 boycott, with 3% pausing spend on Facebook for the entire month of July. Brands approached the #StopHateForProfit boycott in a multitude of ways, beyond pausing ad-spend on the platform, with action ranging from civil-rights-directed campaigns such as #CommitToChange, providing educational resources to team members, donating funds, and making changes within their organizations. 

Using the July boycott media pauses as a case study, Ovative wants to set clients up for success when facing any decision to pause media spend.

Questions Marketers Should Consider:

Brands Who Have Paused

Agile marketers should be asking the tough questions of themselves and their teams to inform the best strategies to navigate the pause, including:

  • What impact did the pause have on customer lifetime value (LTV) and customer retention?
  • Has our brand received feedback or comments due to our pause?
  • How has the brand’s pause in spend translated to traffic, conversions, and revenue on our site?
  • How did our channel mix change during the pause? Were we over-invested in social or other channels prior to the boycott?
  • How did we reallocate spend from the pause to support other marketing initiatives or other parts of the business? What was the ROI on those investments outside of marketing?

Brands Who Have Not Paused

  • How are we seeing our performance on KPIs in comparison to our plan in the pre-boycott climate?
  • Even though we are still running, should we be adjusting plans due to the shifting customer and competitor environment?
  • Has our brand received positive or negative feedback or comments about continuing to run media?
  • What would our customer base expect, qualitatively, of our brand at this moment? Are there causes or reasons for which we would pause media in a similar scenario? How would we support those?

Additional Metrics Brands Should Monitor During this Period:

There are additional performance metrics, not normally included in regula daily reporting, that are critical to monitor during this time.

1. Brand Sentiment

What are customers and audiences saying about our brand? How are customers responding to our brand opting in or out of the boycott/cause?

73% of customers are either more or equally likely to support or purchase from brands who do take action1. Marketers should carefully monitor their owned platforms and media channel comments to ensure comments are being handled in a timely and appropriate manner. Marketers should align with their organization on the level of dialog with which they are going to engage on each channel and provide opportunities to hear customer ideas and concerns.

2. Customer Social Sentiment

How are your customers responding to the boycott and the role advertisers should play in social justice campaigns? How are they reacting to actions your industry competitors are taking?

67% of customers agree that brands have a role to play in speaking out against racial injustice1. Marketers should be monitoring overall customer trends and sentiment towards brands participating in social justice campaigns. For the July Facebook Boycotts, 38.8% of respondents were not aware that the boycotts were happening2. Brands should evaluate customer awareness  and response to understand how customers will be impacted by the pause.

Considerations for Brands Resuming Spend After a Pause

When turning ad spend back on after a pause for any reason, there are several best practices brands should consider. These considerations will ensure your investments drive the strongest performance by enabling campaign algorithms to re-boot: a period known as the “learning phase” after a media pause.

Consideration 1: Platform “Learning Phase”

  • Key Insight: Proactively manage internal expectations on performance after a pause knowing that performance will not return immediately to pre-pause efficiency. Educate key stakeholders on the learning phase these channels will need to go through and forecast impact to KPIs proactively.
  • For example, on Facebook, if a campaign is paused for a period greater than 7 days, Facebook’s delivery system will need to retrain itself. This “learning phase” is required to understand the best audiences to target, time of day to deliver ads, placements to reach your intended audience, and creative use. Typically, after an ad set receives around 50 optimization events within a 7-day period, it will exit the learning phase and performance will stabilize to expected levels.

Consideration 2: Brand Safety Controls

  • Key Insight: Review and align to the brand safety controls being used for your brand across all channels.
  • For example, on Facebook when you plan to run ads that are more deeply integrated with content (like video ads across Instant Articles, In-Stream video and Audience Network), utilize brand safety controls. This includes placement opt-outs, inventory filter, block lists, live stream exclusions, publisher allow lists and content allow lists. These controls ensure you do not run content that does not align to your brand.

Consideration 3: Align Budget Liquidity to Maximize Business Objectives

  • Key Insight: Be very clear during the learning phase on business objectives and allow platform budget fluidity to re-learn and drive the best performance.
  • Placement Liquidity: Increase placement ROI by opting into as many placements as possible, while still aligning to business objectives and limitations. For example, Facebook recommends at least a minimum of 4 placements to ensure maximum activity from key-target audiences. Make sure to consider brand safety controls.
  • Audience Liquidity: Ensure advertising is targeting a broad audience of customers at the beginning of the re-start.
  • Budget Liquidity: Remove restrictions on where campaign budgets can be spent initially on the platform, allowing the learning phase to fully grasp the best performing opportunities.

Facebook ad boycotts have quickly challenged marketers to think differently about media investments and presented a learning opportunity to establish new best practices for handling pauses in spend. As competitive and customer dynamics continue to evolve, agile marketers must continue to ask themselves and their team the critical questions, keep a pulse on customer sentiment and expectations, and be ready to take action to drive performance for their business. 

Ovative is a digital-first media and ​measurement firm seeking to ​transform the measure of marketing success​. At Ovative, we help brands move the needle. We are curious. We value your brand. We want to see you succeed. Connect with us to learn more!

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1 Forbes, When It Comes To Social Justice, Brands Can’t Just Talk, June 2020
2 Search Engine Land, Facebook Ads Boycott; Gen Z Engaged, July 2020

Dianne Anderson

Senior Vice President, Media

About the Author

Dianne is the Senior Vice President of Media at Ovative. She is responsible for delivery and growth across paid digital media, traditional media, marketplaces, and creative services. Since joining the company in 2013, Dianne has been a key leader in establishing new channel practices, a strategic voice in media and marketing strategy and a driver scaling best in class... Read More >>

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