After two wild years, most industries return to lower growth and stable ad spend

Overall digital ad spending in the US is set to grow by 17.8% in 2022, a steep deceleration from 2021’s 38.3% boom but still ahead of 2020’s pandemic-skewed slowdown. Industry-level digital ad spending has mirrored these extreme swings in recent years—with individual highs and lows often spread far apart from the median. Starting this year, however, most industries will settle into more steady spending patterns closer to the national average.

The difference between the fastest and the slowest rate of spending growth among industries this year will be relatively small. This pattern reflects a return to pre-pandemic norms. Only 12.7 percentage points will separate the leader (retail, at 23.5% growth) from the laggard (auto, at 10.8%).

By comparison, in 2020 the difference between the fastest and slowest industry growth was over 80 points, and in 2021 the gap was nearly 30. During that stretch, industries experienced pandemic-era stresses—and the subsequent rebound—very differently. Some industries collapsed, some industries never faltered at all, and some even boomed. Their ad spending generally followed those patterns.

Now, however, most industries are back in the same macroeconomic boat, and their digital ad spending behavior is reconverging.