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Call It A Comeback: Ad Age Study Shows Financial, Auto, Travel Spend Rebounding In 2021.

Financial services, automotive and travel advertising, all of which were negatively impacted by the worst of the pandemic in 2020, have shown significant spending gains this year, according to Ad Age Datacenter's just-released annual review of the world's largest advertisers, which also reports notable growth in the consumer packaged goods and sports betting categories.

With double-digit ad spend percent increases in the first nine months of 2021 for Capital One, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup, the financial services category has rebounded from a tough 2020, when Capital One – a major radio advertiser which is up 79% in spend so far this year en route to surpassing 2019's $2.3 billion – fell 29%. Travel marketing, which hit COVID-driven spending lows in 2020, is seeing a return to near-normal – with Expedia and Booking Holdings up 90% and 58% in ad spend during 2021's first nine months, compared to their respective 66% and 56% dives in 2020 – although total spending remains lower than in pre-pandemic 2019.

Also showing signs of growth is automotive, even while the chip shortage continues to limit new vehicle availability. The 13 auto marketers among the top 100 advertisers cut spending 17.7% during 2020, according to Ad Age Datacenter's analysis. Following an industry-leading 27% spend decline in 2020, General Motors' increase during 2021's first nine months was, it says, “primarily related to the suspension of production and the non-recurrence of austerity measures implemented in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” The used car business has also propelled ad spend gains such as Carvana's 71% lift for 2021 to date, which was, according to a quarterly filing, “to drive growth in units sold and vehicles acquired from customers.”

Consumer packaged goods, which showed mixed ad spend stories during 2020, is squarely in growth mode this year based on Ad Age Datacenter's research. For 2021 to date, Coca-Cola’s ad spend is nearing pre-COVID levels, up 50% after 2020's 35% decline, while spending is also up at Colgate-Palmolive and Procter & Gamble, a heavy radio advertiser. That's also the case for Clorox, where ad spending was up 2% in its most recent quarter vs. 31% a year ago, when sales spiked due to a pandemic-driven demand for cleaning products.

Sports Bets Are On

Then there's sports betting, with ad spend literally on the up and up, this year and last. FanDuel and Fox Bet parent company Flutter Entertainment, which increased its spend 35% in 2020, with a good deal of that on radio, more than tripled its U.S. ad dollars during the first half of 2021, while DraftKings more than doubled its spend through September of this year.

While according to Ad Age Datacenter's analysis, 2020's global ad spend declined in every category except retail and personal care/household products – resulting in just the sixth time in the 35 years of its global report where ad spending for the top 100 advertisers fell – the latest quarterly reports and industry forecasts suggest a rebound for the ad business overall in 2021, pending full-year financial results reveals in early 2022. One such forecast, released last week from WPP’s GroupM, expects global advertising, following its 3.1% decline of 2020, to grow 22.5% in 2021 for an all-time revenue high of $763 billion, and sees further ad growth of 9.7% in 2022, excluding U.S. political advertising spend.

Ad Age Datacenter's figures are based on total worldwide advertising spending, encompassing advertising, marketing services (including promotion and direct marketing) and digital marketing (including social media), reporting calendar 2020 results or, for companies on fiscal years, the most recent fiscal year ended on or before June 30, 2021.

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