Retail Predicted To Again Dominate Digital Ad Spend In 2021, With Second-Largest Growth.


Following a year where growth in total U.S. digital advertising expenditure fell to 14.9% - driven by budget cuts in the automotive and travel businesses in the wake of the pandemic – overall spend for 2021 is expected to rebound, resulting in an estimated 25.5% growth from 2020, according to eMarketer's “US Digital Ad Spending by Industry” report.


The report, forecasting digital ad spending in 10 industries – automotive, computing products and consumer electronics, consumer packaged goods (CPG), entertainment, financial services, healthcare and pharma, media, retail, telecom, and travel – estimates a total spend of $191.1 billion in 2021, with retail's share, as usual, the largest with $47.6 billion, and CPG second with $30.6 billion. The only other category expected to spend north of $20 billion is financial services, pegged at $24.5 billion for 2021.


While retail's predicted 2021 spend represents a 34.5% increase from 2020, its growth rate ranks second to entertainment, where pent-up ad buying demand drives a rebound to 37.2%, following a meager 12.7% increase last year. Although CPG is the only other business expected to show spend growth of more than 30%, eMarketer predicts that all 10 of these industries will raise ad spending by at least 10% in 2021.


Of the three businesses which, in response to COVID-driven consumer behaviors, significantly increased their digital ad spend in 2020, two – computing products and consumer electronics, and CPG – are forecast to continue spend growth at similar rates in 2021. The exception, healthcare and pharma, which benefited from a pandemic-driven share increase from 6.5% to 7.2% in 2020, are expected to decelerate spend growth to 11.6%.


Both auto and travel, the only categories having decreased digital ad spending in 2020, are forecast to rebound to 20.5% and 18.7% respectively, although growth for both is expected to slow over the next two years, as is predicted by eMarketer for all industries.


Mobile ad spend, which for several years has grabbed share from non-mobile digital formats, is forecast to claim close to 70% of digital's total for 2021, with an estimated $129.8 billion spend. According to eMarketer, retail will continue to dominate that spend, with a 23.8% share.

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