Ad growth surprisingly resilient in face of macroeconomic uncertainty

2022/06/15 Innoverview Read

Dive Brief:

  • Global advertising revenues are expected to grow 9% year-on-year to $816 billion in 2022, according to the latest forecast from Magna. That’s down from a prior projection of 12% growth, but still healthy in the face of a swirl of broader macroeconomic uncertainty. 

  • The IPG Mediabrands agency attributed the stability to organic growth factors, including the ongoing shift to e-commerce and digital; a strong bounce back for verticals like travel and entertainment and a groundswell in spending for emerging categories such as sports betting; and cyclical events in the form of the Winter Olympics, FIFA World Cup and U.S. midterm elections, which could result in record political ad spending.

  • While ad spending is slowing in the U.S. following a robust first quarter, the country has remained “relatively insulated” from the impact of the Ukraine war, per Magna. The U.S. ad market will grow above average at 11% to $326 billion this year, though a sharper cooldown could be in the mix for 2023. 

Dive Insight:

As a volatile year rounds its midpoint, advertising’s soothsayers are fairly uniform in their forecasting, with an underlying message of: “It could be worse.” Magna joins other media agencies, including Publicis’ Zenith, in offering slightly downgraded projections while suggesting that the industry has weathered disruptions like the Ukraine war and rising inflation better than expected. Chief marketing officers have recently shared similarly rosy sentiments regarding their budgetary resources and outlooks. 

In Magna’s research, advertising resilience is especially apparent in the U.S., which is outpacing other countries with scaled ad economies. China, the world’s second-largest, is expected to grow below average at 8% in 2022 due to imposing more severe COVID-19 lockdowns and enforcing tighter regulations on digital media.  

GroupM earlier this week offered an updated forecast stating that the global ad industry would grow 8.4% this year, though that figure excluded U.S. political advertising, which is set for a frenzy in the ramp-up to the midterms. The WPP-owned group tagged venture-backed brands of the “new economy” as supporting growth. Zenith, for its part, earlier in June revised its expectations for global advertising expenditures to be up 8% this year, a “minor downgrade” from the 9.1% target pegged in December. 

Unsurprisingly, digital remains a key pillar of the robustness. Digital advertising sales are expected to jump 13% YoY in 2022 to reach 65% of total ad sales, Magna said, led by investments in digital video (16% YoY growth), search (15%) and social media (11%). Traditional media players continue to adjust strategy with an eye toward channels like connected TV, podcasting and audio streaming, which has stabilized losses elsewhere. While linear TV has suffered from a “rapid erosion” viewership, strong pricing and revenues from advertising-based video-on-demand services have helped offset the blow, along with an influx of dollars for events like the Olympics and, in November, the World Cup. 

All said, Magna’s projection of 9% growth is above pre-COVID levels, which averaged 7% between 2015-2019. The research noted that a comedown was always expected following a banner year for advertising in 2021 amid the pandemic reopening and a V-shaped economic recovery.

The agency identified two main headwinds to consider in light of the current situation: A slowdown of the global economy and the deprecation of ad-targeting capabilities in digital, including changes Apple made to its operating system last year that have roiled platforms like Facebook and Snapchat. Neither of those appears to be a short-term problem.

While a severe downturn clearly didn’t manifest in the first half, marketers could be hitting a bumpier road ahead. Magna said it expects global advertising revenues will grow 6% in 2023, below the pre-pandemic average.    

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