Global Ad Spending To Shrink 9% In 2020, But Digital Bouncing Back: Study

Advertising fills an intersection in Tokyo. Sergi Reboredo / VWPics via AP Images

Advertising spending is due to decline 9.1% in 2020 due to COVID-19, according to a new forecast by media agency Zenith.

That would be a slightly less severe downturn than the 9.5% drop experienced during the 2009 global recession, the company noted. In 2021, with the Summer Olympics in Tokyo and the UEFA Euro football championships both scheduled to be held after postponements this year, the global ad business will see an upturn of 5.8%, Zenith said.

Regionally, the U.S. is benefiting from political spending ahead of the November elections, with the decline projected at 7% in 2020. Western Europe, by contrast, is on track for a 15% drop, with Latin America falling 13% and the Middle East and North Africa region headed for a 20% plunge.

Digital media consumption boomed as soon as lockdowns and stay-at-home orders hit various parts of the world from February through April.

Zenith now forecasts that digital advertising will account for 51.0% of global adspend this year, up from the 49.5% it forecast in December.

Digital ad budgets were cut quickly in response to the pandemic, but as it wore on, marketers saw the flexibility and targeting potential of digital as a key element in their mix. Zenith now sees digital representing 51% of total global spending in 2020, up from the 49.5% it expected when it issued a previous forecast last December. Trends will continue over the coming years, with digital commanding just shy of 55% share by 2022.

Recovery for television and radio will be minimal, with 2% and 1% growth expected for 2021 respectively. Out-of-home and cinema, both hit hard by the coronavirus, will rebound, with Zenith forecasting a 16% rise for out-of-home and a 65% bounce-back for cinema ads next year. Neither category, however, will return to its 2019 level by 2022.

“The coronavirus forced brands to embrace digital advertising even faster than expected and made digital transformation of businesses more urgent than ever,” said Jonathan Barnard, Zenith’s head of forecasting. “This year will be the first in which digital advertising will attract more than half of total global adspend, a milestone we previously expected in 2021.”

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