Business-to-business marketers, oft-criticized for being laggards, have sprinted ahead when it comes to digital ad spend, according to new eMarketer findings exclusive to The Drum.
B2B digital ad spend will hit $8.14bn, up 22.6% from 2019. Comparatively, US digital ad spend, as a whole, will only rise 1.7% this year, to $134.66bn.
Long reliant on events and traditional channels, “the conditions of Covid-19 are really forcing B2B marketers to realize that they need to accelerate their transformation into digital,” says Jillian Ryan, eMarketer principal analyst covering B2B and marketing transformation at Insider Intelligence.
Search, virtual event sponsorships, podcasts and spending on LinkedIn are replacing TV, print, out-of-home and in-person events, says Ryan. In fact, LinkedIn will secure a fifth of all B2B ad dollars in 2020. “They are the supreme social network in terms of share.”
However, the surge in these digital platforms and tactics can’t prevent overall US B2B ad spending from plummeting 9.6% to $21.42bn. Nevertheless, eMarketer is bullish for 2021, calling for a 20.4% increase to $25.79bn in B2B ad spending. Digital ad spend is pegged to rise to $9.03bn. “The assumption is that when the world starts to normalize, B2B budgets will start to normalize as well,” says Ryan.
Which categories are the heaviest spenders? The healthcare segment is way up (+41.2%) and, well, travel is a different story (-44.5%).
Healthcare will make up 10.4% of all B2B digital ad spending in 2020. “It's interesting to see that the industry that has been so hard hit and impacted by the pandemic, has been the most active. Advertisers have realized that they need to rely on digital channels to get medical supplies and personal protection equipment in front of their buyers,” says Ryan. Other spending bright spots include pharmaceutical, biotech supply chain operations and hospital service companies.
The leader of the B2B spending pack is tech products and services. It makes up 29.6% of all B2B digital ad spend. Up 37.2%, the category will account for $2.41bn in digital ad spend. “They’re really upping their spend, because their products and services are enabling a lot of the digital transformation that we're talking about.”
Financial services are the third largest category, making up 27% of all B2B digital spend. Financial services spend will increase 28% to the tune of $2.2bn.
The only category that truly plummeted is travel. It will fall 44.5% to $304.9m. “Businesses just aren’t going to have their people travel. There’s less reason to advertise. That’s why we are down to nearly 2016 ad spend levels.”