Local ShoppingDigital ad spend in November declined for first time since 2020

Digital ad spend in November declined for first time since 2020

Dive Brief: 

  • Ad spend for the month of November reached $9.4 billion, making it the top-performing month this year, according to findings from Standard Media Index shared with sister publication Marketing Dive. Still, the total represents an 8% drop in spend year over year.
  • Digital ad spend during the month dipped 4% year over year, representing the first time it has entered negative territory since July 2020 — a downfall credited in part to lack of interest in search sites.
  • Newspapers became the fastest-growing media type in Q3 and maintained that status into Q4. Among verticals, pharma and travel experienced the best November on record since 2017, while both the technology and wellness categories contracted.

Dive Insight: 

November marked the seventh consecutive month ad spend has declined, reflecting ongoing budget cuts, pivots and inflationary pressures within the industry. While November represents the highest monthly ad investment this year — predictable for the holiday season — it still rang in at a steep 8% lower than the year prior. Though perhaps softening the blow, November 2021 was the only month that year to surpass $10 billion in spending, per SMI. This year’s totals, therefore, are reflective of a return-to-earth approach following a spending surge last year related to easing concerns around COVID-19.

Perhaps more surprising than the continued overall spending decline is that, for the first time in years, digital ad spend isn’t making gains. The drop in part can be credited to a decreased investment in search sites, with ad spend in the area falling 24% year over year, according to SMI, a finding mirrored by Google, which in July saw its ad revenue fall year over year for the first time in its 26-year history. The surge of retail media and younger consumers increasingly looking to TikTok and YouTube for advice are also contributing to the decline in traditional search advertising, per SMI.

Another curve ball reflected in the findings is the bets being placed on newspapers: The segment saw national spend rise 12% year over year, making it the fastest-growing media type in the second half of 2022. On the flip side, linear TV spend continues to be challenged, posting a 13% year over year decline for a compound annual growth rate of -6% between 2019 and 2022. Of all media types, newspapers and out-of-home are the only ones experiencing growth so far in Q4, with digital, television, radio and magazines seeing declines year over year. 

Despite the slow month overall, pharma and travel reported the best November since 2017, seeing 8% and 30% year over year growth, respectively. Travel and auto (15%) grew investment at the fastest rate. CPG was the only other vertical to see a bump in November, up 8% year over year. Meanwhile, tech, entertainment and media; financial services; retail; restaurants; general business; apparel and accessories; and wellness all saw fairly steep declines. Namely, tech and wellness each lost one-third of their ad investment in November, falling by 33% and 34%, respectively.

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