Social media ads to hit $50 bn in 2019, catching up with newspapers: Zenith

Zenith’s new Advertising Expenditure Forecasts peg global advertising expenditure growth at 4.4 per cent in 2017, the same rate as estimated for 2016. This is a strong performance, given that the unexpected results of the UK’s referendum on EU membership and the US presidential election have increased political uncertainty and raised the risks of restrictions to international trade. 2017 also faces a tough comparison with the quadrennial year of 2016, when spend was buoyed by the US elections, the Summer Olympics, and the European football championships, as it is every four years. 

After 2017, Zenith expects continued steady growth in global ad spends – forecasting another 4.4 per cent growth in 2018 and 4.1 per cent growth in 2019. Global ad spend growth has been remarkably stable since 2010, growing at between 4 per cent and 5 per cent a year, generally at or below the growth rate of global GDP. Before the financial crisis, advertising would typically exaggerate the wider economy, growing faster in times of expansion and shrinking faster during recessions, with frequent changes in year-on-year growth rates. More recently, the global ad market appears to have entered a phase of more stable growth. 

According to Zenith’s forecast, global advertising expenditure in social media will grow 72 per cent between 2016 and 2019, rising from $29 billion to $50 billion. Social media advertising will account for 20 per cent of all internet advertising in 2019, up from 16 per cent in 2016. Social media advertising is growing at 20 per cent a year and by 2019 will be just 1 per cent smaller than newspaper advertising ($50.2 billion for social media, compared to $50.7 billion for newspapers). By 2020, social media will be comfortably ahead. 

Social media platforms have benefitted from the rapid adoption of mobile technology, using it to embed themselves into their users’ daily lives. For many users, social media is the focal point of their social lives as well as their main source of news. Social media ads blend seamlessly into the news feed, and are much more effective than interruptive banner formats, especially on mobile devices. 

Online video to overtake radio 

Online video advertising is growing almost as quickly as social media, at 18 per cent a year, and by 2019 it will total $35.4 billion across the world, fractionally ahead of the amount spent on radio advertising ($35.0 billion). Online video is also benefiting from the spread of mobile devices, as well as the development of high-speed mobile data connections and improvements in handset displays. It is becoming common for brands to use online video as a complement to television, but for most it does not make sense to use it as a substitute. Even by 2019, online video advertising will be less than a fifth (18 per cent) of the size of television advertising. 

Global growth supported by continued rise of Asia and recovery in Eastern Europe 

Although global ad spend growth has been steady, it has been spread unevenly across the world. Ad spend is shrinking at 4.9 per cent a year in the Middle East and North Africa amid conflict and low oil prices, while Latin America is growing just 1.7 per cent a year as Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador and Venezuela suffer recession. Asia is leading the way. Growth in China has slowed down markedly over the last few years, but is still 7.0 per cent a year, and as the second-largest ad market globally (behind only the US), that equates to a lot of extra ad dollars each year. Zenith expects China to contribute 25 per cent of the growth in global ad spend between 2016 and 2019. There are also three markets in Asia – India, Indonesia and the Philippines – where Zenith expects advertising expenditure to grow at double-digit rates each year to 2019. These are all substantial markets, ranging in size from $3.5 billion in 2016 (the Philippines) and $7.5 billion (both India and Indonesia). Between them, these three markets will contribute 12 per cent of global growth in ad spend to 2019. 

Advertising in several markets in Eastern Europe – notably Russia, Ukraine and Belarus – suffered from the conflict in Ukraine; the sanctions subsequently imposed between Russia, the US and the EU; and the sharp drop in the price of oil. Ad spend shrank 12 per cent across these three markets in 2015, but they avoided collapse and have staged a recovery this year from their reduced base. Zenith forecasts 8 per cent growth across these three markets this year, followed by 9 per cent growth in 2017. These markets will contribute 2 per cent of global ad spend growth between 2016 and 2019. 

“Social media and online video are driving continued growth in global ad spend, despite political threats to the economy,” said Jonathan Barnard, Head of Forecasting at Zenith. “Just four markets in Asia will provide more than a third of the global ad growth to 2019, counterbalancing recession in Latin America and the Middle East.”


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