Digital fuels ad spend rebound as it secures a bigger market share than previous years

The feature image shows an illustration of a man and a woman with thought bubbles—one with a set of demographic data and the other showing a coin.

It looks as if some U.S.-based media have gotten their full mojo back in the first half of 2021, returning to ad spend growth levels that exceeded the same period in 2019.

Standard Media Index (SMI), a privately held firm that tracks ad-spend and ad-cost numbers across agencies and media companies, released a report this week showing first-half of the year ad-spend data for national advertisers across major media in the U.S. SMI considers the data census-level because it’s provided directly from virtually all the major media agencies (but not all, which is why it doesn’t provide actual dollar amounts).

Though it’s safe to expect significant growth over the first half of 2020, during which the COVID-19 pandemic’s lockdown deeply hurt ad-revenue generation across a majority of media, the surprising stat is that U.S. media ad spend registered a 3 percent gain over the same period of 2019 numbers as well.

Unsurprisingly, digital was the biggest gainer of all media, growing its share of total ad spend from 40% in 2019 to 51% in 2021 so far, according to the SMI data. TV shrank from 51% to 43% over that two-year span. So-called other media, which SMI lumped together, dropped from a 9% share in H1 2019 to 6% in 2021.

The biggest gainers in the digital field over the two-year span, according to the SMI data, were social media, video and audio. SMI only included actual percent gains over H1 2020 and declined to provide exact figures. Within digital, the biggest ad category gains included consumer packaged goods advertisers, which grew more than 70% over the two-year span, pharmaceuticals and technology.

SMI’s findings generally bear out with other prognosticators in the industry, including longtime analyst Brian Wieser, who is GroupM’s global president of business intelligence. Wieser’s own findings generally support SMI’s report in the area of TV, in that his research indicates TV ad-spend has been in decline in the U.S., as a result of the cancellation of some long-term commitments.

“None of this is surprising to those of us who’ve been paying attention. We anticipated this [rebound] by now,” said Wieser. “Within digital, there’s an elevation of growth we suspect is because of digital endemics that have access to cheap capital and are spending a lot on marketing and advertising.”

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