Digiday+ Research: Instagram grabs largest share of brands’ and agencies’ marketing spend — even over Google

This research is based on unique data collected from our proprietary audience of publisher, agency, brand and tech insiders. It’s available to Digiday+ members. More from the series →

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As marketers head into the holidays, where do the many — and growing — number of marketing channels stand?

According to Digiday+ Research surveys of over 400 brand, retailer and agency pros in 2021, 2022 and 2023, Instagram is the big winner this year, while the shine is wearing off of Google.

Digiday’s surveys found that, overall, Instagram is the top marketing channel among both brand and retailer pros and agency clients. Almost all respondents from both groups said this year that they spend at least a very small portion of their marketing budgets on the platform: 97% of brand and retailer pros said at least a very small portion of their budgets goes to Instagram, and 95% of agency pros said the same of their clients.

And brands’ and retailers’ use of Instagram has been trending upward: Last year, 90% of brand and retailer pros said they spent at least a little bit of money there, and 89% said so the year before. Agency clients’ use of Instagram is unchanged from last year, but it did increase from the 83% of agency pros who said their clients spent at least a very small portion of their marketing budgets on the platform in 2021.

Influencers, TikTok and Amazon saw big jumps among brand and retailer pros who said this year that they invest at least a little in marketing on those channels. Slightly less than three-quarters of brands (72%) said last year that at least a very small portion of their budgets went to influencers, compared with 87% this year. Meanwhile, brands’ and retailers’ use of both TikTok and Amazon is trending upward: 78% of brand and retailer pros told Digiday this year that they spend at least a little on TikTok, up from 59% last year and 37% the year before. And 55% said the same of Amazon this year, up from 41% last year and 29% the year before.

Interestingly, Digiday’s surveys found no significant increases in the percentage of agency clients who spend at least a little on the different marketing platforms between last year and this year. But both agency pros and brand and retailer pros reported some significant decreases in marketing spend on different platforms.

For instance, the percentage of respondents who said this year that they spend at least a very small portion of their marketing budgets on online display ads dropped for both groups compared with last year: Slightly more than three-quarters of brand and retailer pros (78%) said this year that they spend at least a little on online display ads, down significantly from 93% last year. Similarly, 76% of agency pros said this year that their clients spend at least a little on marketing in that channel, down from 88% last year.

TV (including traditional TV and connected TV) also saw a large drop in investment among both brand and retailer pros and agency pros in the last year, Digiday’s surveys found. This year, TV came in last place among the channels Digiday asked brands and retailers about, with less than a quarter (22%) of brand and retailer pros saying they spent at least a very small portion of their marketing budgets on TV, down from over half (52%) last year. At the same time, the percentage of agency pros who said their clients invest at least a little in TV fell from 74% last year to 52% last year.

A very notable drop in investment between last year and this year occurred in the “other social platform” category among both brand and retailer respondents and agency respondents. Fifty-nine percent of brands and retailers said this year that they spend at least a little on other social platforms including Snapchat, Pinterest, and, importantly, X, down from 76% last year. And the drop on the agency side was even more dramatic: 93% of agency pros said last year that their clients spent at least a little on other social platforms — just 55% said the same this year.

With X (formerly Twitter) included in this category, it’s probably more than a coincidence that these drops in investments among marketers in both groups follow Elon Musk’s controversial takeover and rebranding of the platform.

It’s also worth noting that Digiday’s surveys found that agency clients’ investments has been trending downward in the last few years, albeit only slightly: 86% of agency pros told Digiday this year that at least a very small portion of their clients’ budgets goes toward Google, down from 88% last year and 93% the year before. But we’ll talk a bit more about Google below.

Instagram also came out on top when looking at the channels where brands, retailers and agency clients spend a large portion of their marketing budgets, Digiday’s surveys found. One-third of brand and retailer pros (33%) said this year that they spend a large or very large portion of their marketing budgets on Instagram, while 38% of agency pros said this year that their clients spend a large or very large portion of their budgets on the platform. This puts Instagram ahead of Google when it comes to brands and retailers (32% of whom said this year they spend a large amount on Google) and it puts the platform even with Google among agency pros.

This is significant because it marks a big change from last year, when Google was the top marketing channel among both brand pros and agency pros when looking at where they spent a large portion of their budgets — and by a wide margin for brands. Last year, 59% of brand pros told Digiday they spent a large or very large amount on Instagram, putting the channel far ahead of then-second-place TV (which 31% of brands spent a large amount on). Comparatively, only 21% of brands said last year they spent a lot on Instagram.

Google’s change in ranking here could be indicative of marketers’ uncertainty in the channel as they move into a future without third-party cookies — for real this time.

Interestingly, marketing investment in Facebook is trending downward for both groups when we account for the percentage of brands, retailers and agency clients who are spending a lot on the platform: 23% of brand and retailer pros said this year that they invest a large or very large portion of their budgets on Facebook, down from 28% last year and 45% the year before. Meanwhile, Facebook saw a big drop in big spenders among agency clients between this year and last year: 23% of agency pros said this year that their clients spend a large amount on Facebook, down from 43% last year and 45% the year before.

On the flip side, investment in TikTok is trending upward: 17% of brand and retailer pros said this year they spend a large or very large portion of their budgets on the platform, up from 7% last year and 3% the year before. And 15% of agency pros said this year that their clients spend a large or very large amount on TikTok, up from 6% last year and 3% the year before.

And, while brands, retailers and agency clients haven’t historically spent a huge amount on marketing on Snapchat, Pinterest, X and the social channels characterized as “other,” this category did see a drop among respondents who are spending a lot there. This year, just 3% of brand and retailer pros said they spend a large or very large portion of their marketing budgets on other social platforms, down from 10% last year. And only 1% of agency pros said this year that their clients spend a lot on other social platforms, compared with 13% last year.

https://digiday.com/?p=524693

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