Magna: Digital platforms like Amazon remain resilient amid overall ad spending declines

Linda J. Dodson

Table of Contents

Dive Brief:

  • Advertising revenues slid 17% year-on-year (YoY) to $46 billion in the second quarter of 2020, according a new analysis by advertising firm Magna. Ad sales overall were down 7.2% in the first half, but those of digital media were up 5.7%, helping to mitigate the blow.
  • Q2 marked historic declines in linear media channels, with ad sales plunging 38% YoY for the category, while digital recorded flat figures compared to the year-ago period. National TV ad sales dropped 30% in Q2, compared to an 8% dip during the Great Recession. Meanwhile, Facebook saw its U.S. revenue grow 14% from last year to $8.3 billion, and Amazon’s U.S. ad sales jumped 43% to $2.5 billion.
  • Magna indicated that the pandemic-induced recession has resulted in a steeper overall decline than during the Great Recession. However, the findings reinforce that the negative impact has not been dispersed evenly, with digital platforms showing resilience.

Dive Insight:

Magna concludes that the coronavirus pandemic has firmly shifted consumer attentions toward e-commerce and social media, and thus accelerated the pace at which advertising dollars are turning toward digital media over traditional offerings. Amazon’s streaming platform Twitch, for example, grew its ad sales 52% YoY in the U.S. — a faster growth rate than the product listing search segment of its parent company, which grew by 42% over the same period.

Magna’s findings paint a picture of just how badly the coronavirus-induced downturn could affect the industry, but also shows how the health crisis might fortify the position of companies like Facebook and Amazon that already control a massive share of their respective markets in advertising and e-commerce. That’s not to say the picture is rosy for all of Big Tech: Google, for instance, saw advertising revenue fall 8% YoY to $29.9 billion in Q2 — the first revenue decline in the search giant’s 26-year history. But Magna noted that the dip was moderate considering the otherwise dire economic circumstances, and that Google-owned properties like YouTube continue to perform well when it comes to ad sales.

Meanwhile, traditional media channels, including print (-33%), radio (-33%), out-of-home (-22%) and on-screen film ads (-63.6%), endured the harshest hits, but national and local TV ad spending dropped somewhat less, by 19% each. Part of the decline in local ad spend stemmed from small business losses from car dealers, stores, restaurants and others impacted by the pandemic.

Though a June estimate from WPP’s GroupM media agency predicted that U.S. ad spend would drop by 13% this year — a softer hit than at the outset of the Great Recession — Magna’s analysis argues the damage is somewhat greater. An Interactive Advertising Bureau survey released earlier this month aligns more closely with Magna. Ad executives surveyed by the trade group said they anticipate 6% growth in digital ads this year, but an 8% dip across the ad market overall.

Magna expects a semblance of stability to emerge in the coming months. Its report projects that overall net ad revenue will increase by 5.4% in 2021, with linear media declining by 1.8% and digital media growing by 7.4%.

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