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Home » Research » Global ad investment forecast to grow 6% to $656 billion in 2020
Global ad investment forecast to grow 6% to $656 billion in 2020

By M4G Bureau - October 30, 2019

Internet is the fastest growing ad medium in each sector except technology & electronics, where out of home (OOH) is set to rise fastest at 11.4%, says WARC Report

Advertising spend is forecast to grow next year across 19 product categories, driven by rising spend on Google, Facebook and Amazon – but the possibility of a global recession looms. This is according to WARC’s Global Advertising Trends report on product category ad investment in the coming year. With a forecast global growth of 6%, 2020 is expected to see a marked uptick from the 2.5% growth in 2019 but is down on the 7.3% rise recorded last year.

Internet is the fastest growing ad medium in each sector except technology & electronics, where out of home (OOH) is set to rise fastest at 11.4%.
“Weak macroeconomic indices, waning business confidence and rising geopolitical tensions have increased the possibility of a recession in 2020,” explains James McDonald, Managing Editor, WARC Data.
“Within this climate, our forecast of six percent growth in global advertising investment may seem optimistic, but these projections are in line with those from the IMF and Euromonitor for GDP and consumer spend, respectively."

Incremental ad-spend during quadrennial events – the Tokyo Olympics and US presidential campaigns – may be muted next year but will still have a positive net contribution to global growth, the report notes, as would a stronger yuan and a business-favourable ‘Brexit’.

Without Google, Facebook, and Amazon, global ad investment is flat. Internet formats, combined, will account for over half of global ad investment for the first time in 2020, and social media, search and online video – the largest of these – are effectively shorthand for Facebook, Google and (Alphabet-owned) YouTube.

Google and Facebook, known as the ‘Duopoly’, drew two-thirds of online ad investment in 2018 before traffic acquisition costs (TAC) were paid out to Google’s partners, and the report believes this share could edge closer to three quarters next year.

Meanwhile, Amazon is becoming more popular with advertisers, with the e-commerce giant’s share of all ad dollars rising to 2.5%. By contrast, Alphabet will grow to 23.1%, and Facebook will grow to 12.9% .
Collectively, this Triopoly’s role in advertising overall is stark: advertiser investment beyond them has been flat or falling since 2012.


All product categories should see growth in 2020 but retail continues to struggle. Across all 19 categories measured for the report, spend is expected to rise. Eight product categories are set to increase advertising investment ahead of the global rate next year:

• financial services (+11.8%)
• household & domestic (+10.5%)
• transport & tourism (+9.0%)
• telecoms & utilities (+8.5%)
• technology & electronics (+8.4%)
• alcoholic drinks (+6.9%)
• automotive (+6.8%)
• soft drinks (+6.5%)

Financial services’ spending growth (set to reach $53.4 billion globally) is indicative of innovation in the category, the report suggests, especially in banking where incumbents are vying with young fintechs for younger consumers. As such, more than half of this sector’s investment will go toward online formats.


The largest sector in the analysis, retail, is also expected to post the lowest growth in 2020 of all the categories, but the real picture is brighter than it first appears: its 2.6% rise represents its strongest since 2013.

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