How Much Will B2B Companies Spend on Digital Ads?

BY Adam Ambro
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When you think of “traditional media types” in advertising, what comes to mind? TV, newspaper, direct mail, and radio most likely. Those formats have been the advertising ambassadors for decades, but only over the past few years has digital advertising firmly planted its flag in that world. So much so, the question in the conversation at this point should be what is considered “traditional?” While its growth was always to be expected, the COVID-​19 pandemic has accelerated the rapid expansion of B2B digital ad spending, and it’s only going to get bigger, according to a new report from eMarketer.

Digital Ads Preferred by B2B Organizations

B2B operators will spend $10.84 billion on digital in 2021 and $14.96 billion on traditional.

In that sense, B2Bs are a bit behind B2C operators who now spend a bit over 50% of their ad budgets on digital.

At the current pace, 2023 is poised to be the largest year in digital ad spending ever, according to eMarketer. Here’s how the previous few years, pre-​COVID-​19, looked in the B2B digital ad spending sector:

  • In 2018, $5.46 billion was spent on digital ads
  • 2019 — $6.55 billion
  • 2020 — $8.68 billion

When advertisers had to pivot from in-​person channels to the digital ads needed to reach their audiences, the spending shifted dramatically. The study eMarketer published predicts that B2B digital ad spending will be larger and permanent as indicated below:

  • 2021 — $10.84 billion
  • 2022 — $12.65 billion
  • 2023 — $14.57 billion

So, what are the best formats of ads to focus on? According to eMarketer, US B2Bs will spend $5.09 billion on display advertising in 2021, up 32.6% from 2020. LinkedIn makes up the largest share of US B2B display in 2021 with 32.2% of the $5.09 billion that will be spent on B2B display this year.

Search ads will have a large share of ad spend as well, with B2Bs expected to spend $5.36 billion this year. That said, the growth rate isn’t as large as display, with the number growing only 19.5% from last year.

Significant change in expectations

Prior to the pandemic, eMarketer was expecting a spending increase on digital ads, but not to this extent.

Last year, we forecast the 2020 growth rate for US B2B digital ad spending at 22.6%,” wrote eMarketer. “But given the resilience of the overall digital ad market during the latter half of 2020, we have updated this estimate considerably to 32.5% growth in our new forecast, reflecting the even more dramatic shift to digital for B2Bs.”

Our previous assumption was that, in 2021, the US B2B digital ad market would still grow YoY but only at a rate of 10.9%. For our revised estimates, the growth rate for 2021 is much steeper at 24.9%.”

One of the driving forces behind the digital ad spend in 2021 has been the push for tech products and services and financial service providers. According to eMarketer, tech products and services companies in the US will spend $3.48 billion on B2B digital ads in 2021, a YoY increase of 32.8%.

How does this impact your B2B advertisers?

While there are still plenty of ad dollars that can, and will, be spent on traditional media types, it’s time to start positioning yourself as a digital advertising expert. More importantly, it’s time to implore your B2B advertisers to make the jump to digital ads, if they haven’t already. As the survey suggests, digital ads are now to be considered as “traditional” media. If your advertisers aren’t promoting themselves through digital messaging, they’re only going to be left behind in the future.

This is where AdMall, powered by SalesFuel, can help you. With the Digital Audit, you’ll be able to quickly see where your advertiser is excelling in the digital ad space and where they could improve. Maybe they have a Facebook business page they want to drive new customers to, but it’s set to private so people can’t access it. Or they may not be ranking for important organic keywords that could drive traffic to their website. Learning these important details to share will showcase you as that digital expert and set you apart from your competition. The digital advertising world is about to get much larger: Are you and your advertisers prepared?

Photo by Mikael Blomkvist from Pexels