Global ad spend will grow more than 10% this year as economy recovers quicker than expected

The news: Worldwide ad spend will grow by 10.6% year over year (YoY) in 2021, per the consensus of ad spend forecasts from media agencies Dentsu Aegis, GroupM, Magna, and Zenith. That’s up by 3.3 percentage points from January 2020’s consensus of 7.3%.

Key stat: We updated our forecast in March 2021, estimating that worldwide total media ad spend will grow by 15.0% this year to $747.67 billion. That’s up $56.17 billion, or 8.1%, from our prediction in September 2020, which was made just prior to the emergency approval of several vaccines for use worldwide.

How we got here: First, the anticipated decline in global ad spend was less steep than expected—the consensus expectation for 2020 was a decline of 5.2%, while we anticipated a decline of 4.5%. But the actual contraction for the year ended up being a decline of only 1.2%, largely driven by the fact that digital ad spending just barely missed pre-pandemic estimates. Additionally, the global economy is now recovering more quickly than anticipated, as vaccines roll out in many countries that are heavy ad spenders.

Digging deeper: Despite a positive global trend, recovery will be uneven by country and ad format as new variants of the coronavirus emerge and vaccine access remains inconsistent. Below are a few broad trends:

  • When we finalized our forecast in March, we predicted that India would see the strongest recovery, up 31.7%. But since then, India experienced a second wave of COVID-19 infections that left it the next worst-hit country after the US (as far as number of cases), which will very likely dim that economic recovery. This year, Indonesia, the largest economy in Southeast Asia, according to the World Bank, will see the second-quickest growth of all countries we measure, rising by 22.2%, followed by the US (18.0%) and the UK (16.3%).
  • With commerce shifting even more online and social media use soaring, digital ad spend will continue to grow quicker than traditional formats like linear TV and print, up by 20.4% worldwide, per our estimates. And mobile will be the fastest-growing subset of digital, up by 23.5%. By the end of 2021, it will make up just under three-quarters (74.9%) of all digital ad spend.
  • Global events could also aid the recovery. If the postponed Olympics manage to avoid outright cancellation, they will help traditional ad spend grow by 7.6% this year—but growth will fall again to 2.6% in 2022 and just 0.4% by 2025. The UEFA European Championship will give the European market a boost as well.

The bottom line: We’re not out of the woods yet, but these numbers paint an optimistic picture of the rest of the year and for the coming years, too. We now predict a higher rate of growth than we did even in 2019, culminating in total media ad spend surpassing $1 trillion by 2025.