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With Pandemic As Catalyst, Healthcare Poised For ‘Giant Leap’ In Ad Spending.

As the country works to bring the raging COVID-19 pandemic under control, healthcare will continue to grow as an advertising category in 2021. A record 5,500 healthcare companies received a total of $80 billion in investments in 2020 with telemedicine a top focus. Some $48 million was spent on telemedicine ads last year, according to Media Radar, a 22% increase over 2019. “Telehealth is even bigger than we thought,” MediaRadar CEO Todd Krizelman said Thursday during a webinar devoted to his advertising predictions for 2021. “We should see a giant leap in healthcare and telemedicine advertising in the next 1-3 years.”

As they leverage the COVID vaccine to encourage people to come into their stores, pharmacies are expected to ramp up advertising this year. Promoting flu shots made up 26% of pharmacy advertising in 2020 and that’s expected to grow in 2021. Krizelman predicts vaccination ad spend will lift total pharmacy advertising in late spring and early summer of 2021. Total pharmacy ad spend will be up at least 33% this year, he said.

Another sector of the healthcare industry poised for ad spend growth this year is at-home testing kits. This segment spent about $10 million in 2020 advertising test kits for certain cancers, strep throat and the flu. Last November, a COVID testing kit was approved and during the first two weeks of January 2021, almost $1 million was spent on advertising them. MediaRadar forecasts at-home test kit marketing will at least double in 2021.

QSRs Grow Their Share Of Restaurant Market

Restaurant advertising will be a mixed bag this year as quick-serve restaurants become an increasingly larger piece of the market and local eateries continue to struggle under the weight of pandemic restrictions. QSRs made up 80% of all restaurant ad spend in 2020, up from 73% in 2019. Still, there was an industrywide advertising decrease of 19% in 2020, even as the number of new QSR campaigns rose 17%. By the fourth quarter, QSRs significantly increased their ad spend with investment up 98% during the last eight weeks of the year. For 2021 the forecast is for a 10% increase in QSR ad spending.

Auto Trends Encouraging But Spending Lags

The outlook for the auto industry in 2021 is improving but ad spending levels aren’t likely to return to pre-COVID levels this year. Auto ad spending was down 26% in 2020, per MediaRadar. “The U.S. auto industry has largely recovered despite the pandemic,” Krizelman said. “Total U.S. car sales in December were up 10% year-over-year, an encouraging trend forecast to continue in 2021.” He predicts auto ad investment will return to 85%-90% of pre-COVID levels by June.

Meanwhile, car dealerships will find themselves in a toe-to-toe battle with groups like Carvana, CarGurus and Vroom that have changed the car buying experience. Dealerships are reacting by mimicking some of Carvana’s offerings. Auto dealership spending is recovering, albeit slowly. In Q4 it was down by 37%, a marked improvement over the 50% drop in Q3. Krizelman is calling for dealership spending to continue to rise in 2021 to make up for deficits from a lack of foot traffic.

In other 2021 predictions from MediaRadar:

  • Pent-up demand will lead to a revival in travel, at least domestically.

  • Direct to consumer marketers will keep growing and buying ads.

  • Other growth categories in 2021 include streaming services, IT companies, and household products.

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