Advertising’s return to growth powered by digital as marketers eye road to recovery

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Global advertising investment is forecast to grow by 5.8% globally in 2021, according to the first dentsu Ad Spend Report since the global pandemic began.  

The report combines data from 59 markets and anticipates that $579bn will be spent globally with all regions enjoying positive growth to offset a fall of 8.8% in 2020. Western Europe (7.5%), Asia-Pacific (5.9%) and North America (4.0%) will see particularly strong growth figures, which will be driven by uplifts in investment in key countries such as India (10.8%), the United Kingdom (10.4%) and France (8.9%).  

The accelerated shift to digital that advertisers made in response to the significant restrictions placed on people’s lives through lockdowns will also endure. Digital will account for half of all spend for the first time, with Social (18.3%), Search (11.0%) and Video (10.8%) expected to benefit the most.

Meanwhile, the return of major sporting events that were delayed last year such as the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, and UEFA European Football Championships will also represent a significant driver of growth. TV is set to benefit in particular from these live events as advertisers look to capitalise on the huge global audiences they draw. It is expected to drive a 1.7% increase globally to $169bn TV spend, which accounts for a third of all ad spend globally. 

Industry sectors that have been impacted the hardest by COVID-19 will also see the biggest bounce-backs. Based on analysis in eight markets, the Travel & Transport (28.4%), Media & Entertainment (14.5%) and Automotive (13.8%) sectors will all grow significantly after being hit hard by the impact of COVID-19. There will also be consistent levels of growth for sectors such as Technology (6.0%), Finance (5.6%) and Telecoms (4.8%), which all proved relatively resilient in 2020.  

Despite the positive signs of momentum in 2021, a return to pre-pandemic levels of advertising spend is unlikely until 2022, when spending is likely to reach US$619 billion and grow at a rate of 6.9%.  

Peter Huijboom, Global CEO Media, dentsu international said: 

“COVID-19 has presented our industry and the world at large with unique and unprecedented challenges that will leave a lasting legacy. It has undoubtedly accelerated the pace of change and the on-going digital transformation that has been affecting all levels of society for some time.  

“While a return to growth will be welcomed all round, the road to recovery for marketers should be supported by investing in ways that will put consumer intelligence at the heart of their business strategies. We know from our own CMO survey that understanding consumer behaviour in a post-pandemic world is the biggest challenge marketers face. To build hyper-empathy in this new reality will require a real focus and investment in data, e-commerce, and new technologies like connected TV as well as building deeper partnerships across all areas of the industry.  

“Having left 2020 behind and entering the new year with ongoing challenges but also hope of better times, media has a vital role to play by bringing people together through engaging experiences strengthening our humanity.”