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How COVID-19 Has Impacted Media Consumption, by Generation

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covid-19 media consumption by generation

Media Consumption in the Age of COVID-19

As the coronavirus outbreak continues to wreak havoc across the globe, people’s time that would have otherwise been spent perusing malls or going to live events, is now being spent on the sofa.

During this period of pandemic-induced social isolation, it’s no surprise that people are consuming vast amounts of media. Today’s graphics use data from a Global Web Index report to explore how people have increased their media consumption as a result of the outbreak, and how it differs across each generation.

More Time to Kill

Global Web Index found that over 80% of consumers in the U.S. and UK say they consume more content since the outbreak, with broadcast TV and online videos (YouTube, TikTok) being the primary mediums across all generations and genders.

Unsurprisingly, 68% of consumers are seeking out pandemic updates online over any other activity. Gen Zers however, have other plans, as they are the only generation more likely to be listening to music than searching for news.

internet activities

Overall, younger generations are more likely to entertain themselves by playing games on their mobile or computer. Millennials also stand out as the foodie generation, as they are the most likely to be searching for cooking recipes or reading up on healthy eating.

Leaning on a Pillar of Trust

Across the board, consumers view the World Health Organization (WHO) as the most trusted source of information for any COVID-19 related updates.

This isn’t true everywhere on a regional basis, however. For example, while U.S. consumers trust WHO the most, UK consumers view their government as their most trusted news source overall.

media consumption trust

Trust in information shared on social media is higher than word of mouth from friends and family, and even foreign government websites. That said, it is lower than information shared on the radio or news websites.

The Need for Pandemic Positivity

While staying abreast of pandemic updates is important, ultimately, a positive mindset and the ability to switch off will help people cope better day-to-day.

Therefore, it seems reasonable that people are more inclined to invest in new subscription services since they have been in isolation, with almost one-third of Gen Zers considering purchasing Netflix, followed by Disney+.

media consumption subscription

Understandably, people are becoming increasingly worried about how much time they are dedicating to their screens. However, research suggests that screen time itself is no cause for concern. Rather, it’s the content we choose to consume that could have a significant impact our psychological well-being.

Perhaps most intriguingly, the TV shows and movies that are increasing in popularity on Netflix are about pandemics—which could signify the need for people to fictionalize the chaos we find ourselves in.

Regardless of what type of content we are consuming, the fact is that every generation is relying on their devices during this pandemic to inform and distract more than ever before, creating a huge opportunity for media companies to engage a captive audience.

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Technology

Visualizing the Evolution of Global Advertising Spend (1980-2020)

How has global advertising spending shifted over recent decades? We look at the data to see how both the industry and media have evolved.

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The Evolution of Global Advertising Spend (1980-2020)

Marketers may still “sell the sizzle” and not the steak, but shifts in the media landscape and consumer behavior mean that advertisers must constantly adapt their media strategies.

In the above infographic from Raconteur, we can take a closer look at how global advertising spend has evolved over recent decades across the media sphere.

The Media Landscape Shapes the Ad World

In advertising, dollars go where the eyeballs are.

Recently, all eyes have been on the digital realm—a trend that coincided with the disastrous fall of the print industry. As people mass-migrated to digital platforms in the 2010s, marketers were hot on their heels, and the fall of print media began.

In 2014, TV ad spend met a similar fate, peaking at nearly $250 billion. However, despite its rather sharp decline, TV still remains the largest in terms of global advertising spending.

The demise of the newspaper is shown dramatically in the above graphic, beginning in 2007 before the financial crisis, and correlating with the ascent of search engine ad spend. Peaking at $125 billion before the social media boom, newspaper advertising has never recovered.

Winners in a Digital World

In less than five years, internet ad spend nearly doubled: $299 billion was spent on global internet advertising in 2019 compared to $156 billion in 2015.

Reaching $160 billion in one year, digital display advertising—a broad category including banner ads, rich media, advertorial and sponsorship, online video and social media—accounted for the largest global ad expenditure in 2019.

Comparing all digital display ad spend in isolation with TV and newspaper, we can see the continued significance of the shift to digital, and how it’s projected to continue.

global advertising spend

Looking at the main visualization, it’s clear that budgets have shifted, with digital channels now accounting for more than half of total advertising spend.

Although digital spending is up across the board, search engine ad spend began to plateau in the late 2010s, while social and ecommerce mediums both continue to rise. Impressively, between 2012 to 2020, the percentage of U.S. senior marketing budgets allocated to social media more than doubled, ballooning from almost 9% to nearly 21%.

“People share, read and generally engage more with any type of content when it’s surfaced through friends and people they know and trust”

– Malorie Lucich, Head of Product & Tech Communications, Pinterest

Advertisers aren’t the only ones spending money online. More than $183 billion is expected to be spent online by consumers as a result of the 2020 pandemic.

Screen Life: Time is Ad Money

It’s not only that people have shifted their focus from analog to digital. They are also spending many of their waking hours in front of a screen.

  • Adults in the U.S. spend an average of 11 hours a day in front of a screen, and the ad dollars that vie for our digital attention are also rising.
  • Globally, the daily average of time spent online was almost 7 hours during the pandemic, up from 3.2 hours at the beginning of lockdowns.

As a result of COVID-19 lifestyle shifts, time spent watching digital video is expected to increase. According to eMarketer, digital video spiked among UK adults during the pandemic—to 2.75 hours, and almost by 30 minutes daily in total video and TV screen time.

Smartphone Boom: From Big Screens to Small

Social media and digital ad spend also corresponds with a steady uptick in global smartphone ownership and usage.

In February of 2019, for instance, 81% of U.S. residents owned a smartphone. By 2024, it’s expected that 291 million Americans (almost 90%) will be using a smartphone.

us smartphone users

In China, smartphone usage has almost doubled in 5 years—and is predicted to surpass 3.4 hours a day by 2022. Statista estimates there will be 1.13 billion smartphone users in China by 2025, making up nearly 14% of the world’s population by 2025.

As billions of users spend hundreds of hours with their small screens every year, it’s possible that mobile-based ad spend—including uber-popular apps like TikTok—will become even more commonplace.

The Digital Future is Now

As a result of the pandemic, it is projected that global advertising spending could fall by 8.1% this year. However, 53% of all global ad spend is expected to flow online. And the rise of search, social media, video, ecommerce—in contrast to TV and print—becomes clearer.

Although search ad spend recently plateaued, its rise over the last decade has been dramatic. With digital content consumption doubling since the pandemic began, the growth of social, e-commerce, and search ad spend are likely to continue.

If these trajectories are any indication, advertising budgets will only be getting more digital.

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Markets

How Total Spend by U.S. Advertisers Has Changed, Over 20 Years

This graphic visualizes the fluctuations in advertising spend in the U.S., along with its brutal decline of 13% as a result of COVID-19.

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Total Spend by U.S. Advertisers, Over 20 Years

With an advertising economy worth $239 billion in 2019, it’s safe to say that the U.S. is home to some of the biggest advertising spenders on the planet.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the major upheaval of advertising spend, and it is unlikely to recover for some time.

The graphic above uses data from Ad Age’s Leading National Advertisers 2020 which measures U.S. advertising spend each year, and ranks 100 national advertisers by their total spend in 2019.

Let’s take a look at the brands with the biggest budgets.

2019’s Biggest Advertising Spenders

Much of the top 10 biggest advertising spenders are in the telecommunications industry, but it is retail giant Amazon that tops the list with an advertising spend of almost $7 billion.

In fact, Amazon spent an eye-watering $21,000 per minute on advertising and promotion in 2019, making them undeniably the largest advertising spender in America.

Explore the 100 biggest advertisers in 2019 below:

RankCompanyTotal U.S. Ad Spend 2019Industry
#1Amazon$6.9BRetail
#2Comcast Corp.$6.1BEntertainment
#3AT&T$5.5BTelecommunications
#4Procter & Gamble$4.3BConsumer Goods
#5Walt Disney$3.1BEntertainment
#6Alphabet$3.1BTechnology
#7Verizon Communications$3.1BTelecommunications
#8Charter Communications$3.0BTelecommunications
#9American Express$3.0BFinancial Services
#10General Motors$3.0BAutomotive
#11JPMorgan Chase$2.8BFinancial Services
#12Walmart$2.7BRetail
#13L’Oréal$2.3BBeauty
#14T-Mobile U.S.$2.3BTelecommunications
#15Berkshire Hathaway$2.3BVarious
#16Nestlé$2.3BFood & Beverages
#17Ford$2.3BAutomotive
#18Expedia Group$2.2BTravel & Hospitality
#19Capital One Financial$2.2BFinancial Services
#20Fiat Chrysler Automobiles$2.0BAutomotive
#21Samsung$2.0BElectronics
#22Pfizer$1.9BPharmaceuticals
#23Progressive$1.8BInsurance
#24PepsiCo$1.7BFood & Beverages
#25Bank of America$1.7BFinancial Services
#26LVMH$1.6BRetail
#27Target$1.6BRetail
#28McDonald’s$1.6BFood & Beverages
#29Booking Holdings$1.6BTravel & Hospitality
#30GlaxoSmithKline$1.5BPharmaceuticals
#31Johnson & Johnson$1.5BPharmaceuticals
#32Anheuser-Busch InBev$1.5BFood & Beverages
#33Toyota$1.5BAutomotive
#34Merck & Co.$1.5BLogistics
#35Nike$1.5BRetail
#36AbbVie$1.4BPharmaceuticals
#37Honda$1.4BAutomotive
#38Unilever$1.4BConsumer Goods
#39ViacomCBS$1.4BEntertainment
#40Macy’s$1.3BRetail
#41State Farm$1.2BInsurance
#42Kohl’s$1.2BRetail
#43Home Depot$1.1BRetail
#44Wells Fargo$1.1BFinancial Services
#45Yum Brands$1.1BFood & Beverages
#46Netflix$1.1BEntertainment
#47U.S. Government$1.0BGovernment
#48Estée Lauder$994MBeauty
#49Nissan$990MAutomotive
#50Wayfair$932MRetail
#51Diageo$918MFood & Beverages
#52Sanofi$889MPharmaceuticals
#53Discover Financial Services$883MFinancial Services
#54Mars$880MFood & Beverages
#55Eli Lilly$864MPharmaceuticals
#56Kroger$854MRetail
#57Allstate$854MInsurance
#58Molson Coors$822MFood & Beverages
#59Apple$818MTechnology
#60Microsoft$816MTechnology
#61Coca-Cola$816MFood & Beverages
#62DISH Network$815MEntertainment
#63Lowe’s$811MRetail
#64Kraft Heinz$782MFood & Beverages
#65Volkswagen$780MAutomotive
#66IAC$775MEntertainment
#67Best Buy$772MRetail
#68Intuit$760MTechnology
#69Uber$756MTechnology
#70Constellation Brands$749MFood & Beverages
#71Sony$746MTechnology
#72Cox Enterprises$715MEntertainment
#73Citigroup$691MFinancial Services
#74Adidas$688MConsumer Goods
#75LendingTree$688MFinancial Services
#76Amgen$685MTechnology
#77Gilead Services$683MPharmaceuticals
#78Facebook$671MTechnology
#79Lions Gate$668MEntertainment
#80Marriott International$667MTravel & Hospitality
#81EssilorLuxottica$665MConsumer Goods
#82J.C. Penney$644MRetail
#83Liberty Mutual$640MInsurance
#84Daimler$640MAutomotive
#85Hyundai$627MAutomotive
#86Walgreens$621MRetail
#87Dell$618MTechnology
#88IBM$606MTechnology
#89Reckitt Benckiser$593MConsumer Goods
#90Keurig Dr Pepper$593MFood & Beverages
#91Restaurant Brands International$589MFood & Beverages
#92Inspire Brands$589MFood & Beverages
#93Clorox$581MConsumer Goods
#94Novartis$579MPharmaceuticals
#95eBay$562MRetail
#96Gap$562MRetail
#97Takeda$541MPharmaceuticals
#98Kia Motors$534MAutomotive
#99Coty$531MBeauty
#100Subarau$532MAutomotive

The report offers several ways of looking at this data—for example, when looking at highest spend by medium, Procter & Gamble comes out on top for traditional media spend like broadcast and cable TV.

On the digital front, Expedia Group is the biggest spender on desktop search, while Amazon tops the list for internet display ads.

The Rise and Fall of Advertising Spend

Interestingly, changes in advertising spend tend to fall closely in step with broader economic growth. In fact, for every 1% increase in U.S. GDP, there is a 4.4% rise of advertising that occurs in tandem.

The same phenomenon can be seen among the biggest advertising spenders in the country. Since 2000, spend has seen both promising growth, and drastic declines. Unsurprisingly, the Great Recession resulted in the largest drop in spend ever recorded, and now it looks as though history may be repeating itself.

Total advertising spend in the U.S. is estimated this year to see a brutal decline of almost 13% and is unlikely to return to previous levels for a number of years.

The COVID-19 Gut Punch

To say that the global COVID-19 pandemic has impacted consumer behavior would be an understatement, and perhaps the most notable change is how they now consume content.

With more people staying safe indoors, there is less need for traditional media formats such as out-of-home advertising. As a result, online media is taking its place, as an increase in spend for this format shows.

But despite marketers trying to optimize their media strategy or stripping back their budget entirely, many governments across the world are ramping up their spend on advertising to promote public health messages—or in the case of the U.S., to canvass.

The Saving Grace?

Even though advertising spend is expected to nosedive by almost 13% in 2020, this figure excludes political advertising. When taking that into account, the decline becomes a slightly more manageable 7.6%

Moreover, according to industry research firm Kantar, advertising spend for the 2020 U.S. election is estimated to reach $7 billion—the same as Amazon’s 2019 spend—making it the most expensive election of all time.

Can political advertising be the key to the advertising industry bouncing back again?

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