WARC Global Ad Trends: COVID-19 One Year On

Gabby Fernie

WARC Data, an international marketing intelligence service, has today published its Global Advertising Trends report: COVID-19 One Year On.  

The consumer move to digital media has accelerated in the past 12 months. The report outlines the new, long-term shifts in eCommerce, social media, online video and gaming for both brands and consumers.

Last year, $900bn (£648.41bn) more was spent at online retailers, with major players like Amazon leading the way. Data from Earnest Research show 59 per cent of new COVID-19 Amazon customers were still buying with the company at the end of 2020. 

As a result, brands are now investing more in e-commerce advertising, which grew far ahead of the wider online ad market last year.

TikTok was the social winner of 2020, with user activity doubling and brands now upping their investment. The platform appears to be overtaking social media giant Facebook - a WARC survey of 1,000 marketers show that 44 per cent of brands expect to increase spend on TikTok this year, ahead of Facebook's 39 per cent. 

Online video is eroding linear TV advertising, which has fallen an estimated $34bn (£24.48bn). Digital platforms like YouTube are becoming more popular, with audiences now watching over 20 hours of mobile content each month, according to App Annie.

More than a quarter (27 per cent) of YouTube consumption is via connected TV devices, which now poses a direct challenge to linear TV activity.

Gaming and esports audiences grew rapidly last year, with streaming platform Twitch approaching 3m monthly viewers worldwide. Audiences are also more receptive to advertising in exchange for in-game benefits, and gamers are 7 per cent more likely to buy from brands they have seen advertised, according to Global Web Index. 

Esports brands are tapping into sponsorship, which is expected to grow 11.6 per cent this year and top $600m (£432.02m) for the first time, per Newzoo forecasts. The creative opportunities for brands extend beyond this, ranging from celebrity collaborations and partnerships.

"The media disruption from COVID-19 was rapid and severe, but the data suggest that brands were largely able to adapt to the immediate shifts in consumer behaviour. The clear correlation between changes in user activity and advertising spend shows how digital media has benefitted," said Senior Analyst at WARC data, Rob Clapp. 

"The main takeaway for brands has been a greater focus on agility, innovation and effectiveness, a trend that is likely to perpetuate digital media's rapid growth in 2021 and beyond."