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US Digital Display Advertising Is Weathering the Storm

The vast majority of digital display advertising in the US is bought and sold programmatically—that is, with automation, including programmatic direct setups and more traditional forms of real-time bidding (RTB). This year, these transactions will make up 84.5% of the digital display ad market.

Programmatic display spending in the US will continue to grow this year, despite the recession, but at a severely depressed rate before bouncing back in 2021. Programmatic advertising will be buoyed by mobile spending, which will rise by $3.93 billion; by video spending, which will increase by $2.83 billion; and by programmatic direct transactions, which will account for $4.07 billion in incremental spending.

Spending on nonvideo programmatic display ads will increase by nearly $900 million this year, but video ads are a much bigger driver of programmatic ad growth. Spending on video ads transacted programmatically will increase 11.6% to $27.37 billion, and growth will accelerate to 31.3% next year as the economic effects of the pandemic subside.

Our US programmatic display estimates were last updated in October 2019. We also made some significant revisions to our underlying US digital ad spending forecast in March 2020, prior to the pandemic, that would have flowed through to these programmatic breakouts.

Now the pandemic’s effects are layered onto those changes. Of particular note: We’ve revised our estimate of 2019 programmatic display spending upward, from $57.30 billion to $59.57 billion. While we’re predicting slower growth, it is from a bigger base.

In October, we forecast overall programmatic display ad spending in the US would grow 19.5% this year, which would have translated to more than $11 billion in incremental spending. We expected programmatic video ad spending to reach $33.42 billion this year, thanks to a 22.8% growth.

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