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Digital Ads Strike Back – But Will These Digital Marketing Trends Last?

Someone working on digital marketing on their laptop

Consumer shifts were dramatic over the last year to say the least. The pandemic forced shoppers inside resulting in a boom in e-commerce traffic. Combined with more efficient delivery offerings, the come-to-me economy was born. (What is the Come-to-Me Economy? Check out this Bold story and find out.) But e-commerce wasn’t the only thing that changed. Everyone spent more time online for other activities including entertainment streaming and gaming. All of this meant that retailers and other advertisers had to change the way they reached their markets. New digital marketing insights were needed if companies were to compete. And it’s led to some major shifts in digital advertising trends as a result.

On average, digital advertising trends have been on the rise over the last year. As consumers moved out of stores and onto the Internet, businesses had to follow. Because of this, ad spending on all types of digital media has increased by about 18 percent on average. For some, they have seen revenues grow by as much as 30 percent in the last year alone. But questions remain as to whether these digital advertising trends have staying power as we emerge from COVID’s stronghold. Depending on which digital marketing insights one considers, the answer seems to vary significantly.

“The venture capital world spent a decade betting against advertising, and it’s about to blow up in their faces.” – Bryan Goldberg, CEO of Bustle

Changing Digital Advertising Trends

Over the last decade, there have been growth in digital advertising. Greater Internet and mobile use naturally fueled these behaviors. But since 2017, industries and businesses have pulled back a bit in favor of other marketing strategies. At least in the last few years, digital marketing insights have favored subscription services. (Read about the dramatic rise of the subscription-based fee model in this Bold story.) This approach allows a more reliable and predictable revenues stream for companies that are appealing to investors. But that has recently changed as consumers have a growing number of non-subscription choices. With online activity skyrocketing, there has been a dilution effect that has seen digital advertising trends change.

Notably, Google and Facebook have long enjoyed revenues from digital advertising trends. In fact, together they account for 87 percent of all digital advertising growth. Likewise, Amazon now accounts for 10 percent of all digital advertising dollars. It recently began charging its merchants for advertising their products on Amazon. Thus, they too claim a chunk of these revenues. But in the last year, companies are seeking our smaller digital media platforms based on new digital marketing insights. Ad revenues for these companies have increased between 25 and 30 percent since the pandemic began.

“I don’t know that I could’ve predicted it at this level. We haven’t seen digital advertising growth in high double digits since maybe 2017.” – Justin Smith, CEO of Bloomberg Media Group

Differing Digital Marketing Insights and Opinions

The recent boom in digital advertising trends is both logical and expected given how markets have changed. And as might be anticipated, retailers have led the way by investing more and more into digital ads. But they are not the only ones. In addition to retail companies, automotive, financial and telecommunications companies have also jumped on board the digital advertising trends. Even digital subscription companies like Netflix have found it necessary to sell their products on digital ads as well. All of this have many believing digital advertising is back in a big way.

Someone looking at a digital ad on their phone
The rise of the subscription-based revenue generation model has been curtailed a bit by the resurgence of digital ads.

But not everyone is drinking the Kool-Aid. While the pandemic forced consumers online and stimulated growing digital advertising trends, it taught other lessons as well. Many businesses were forced to cut back on advertising spending out of financial necessity. When they did so, they realized that they were not generating the return on investment they thought they were. In essence, the key performance indicators they were using to justify their digital ads didn’t really equate to sales. As a result, digital marketing insights gained from the last year have led them to pull away from digital ads. Companies like Airbnb reduced their digital ad spending by $800 million last year and have no plans to return to this level. The investments simply weren’t worth it.

“What the pandemic showed is [Airbnb] can take marketing down to zero and still have 95% of the same traffic as the year before. So, we’re not going to forget that lesson.” – Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb

The Truth Is Often in the Middle

While differing opinions exist about the future of digital advertising trends, some things are likely to occur. Digital marketing insights over time have shown that digital ads tend to rise and fall cyclically. Often, this occurs with economic cycles. But currently, the pandemic has certainly accounted for some of these changes as well. In any case, it’s unlikely that digital advertising trends will continue to grow at double-digit rates for years to come. We may be entering a roaring 20s situation where they will thrive. But history has taught us that enduring growth in advertising rates isn’t very likely.

On the other hand, there is no question that a critical shift has occurred in many consumer markets. People are much more comfortable with online and mobile platforms. Therefore, digital advertising trends will still see healthy growth over time. The more intriguing question is whether this growth will be enjoyed by a few major players like Facebook. Or will the wealth be spread around to other media businesses as well. This will greatly depend on how anti-trust legislation evolves in the future. Unless something changes, it will remain difficult for smaller digital media groups to earn their fair share of this growth.

A Respectable Share of the Advertising Pie

In 2020, global digital advertising spending was $333 billion with $140 in the U.S. alone. Subsequent digital advertising trends then increased global figures to $389 billion in 2021. With current digital marketing insights, they are expected to reach $526 billion by 2024. Based on these projections, it appears digital advertising has secured a stronghold as a result of consumer shifts. Thus, while digital subscriptions will continue to limit their attractiveness, they will remain a viable part of any marketing strategy.


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