automotive industry

US Automotive Digital Ad Spending 2020

Executive Summary

Digital ad spending in the US automotive industry will decrease by 18.2% this year to $10.94 billion. This will be the largest reduction in digital ad spend by an industry after travel, where spend will contract by 41.0%. Historically, automotive spending has been fairly even across search, video, and nonvideo display ads. But in 2020, search will take a back seat as auto advertisers focus less on performance marketing amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Why will automotive digital ad spending contract in 2020?

During the onset of the pandemic, car shoppers delayed their purchases, while manufacturing plants and dealerships closed or operated at limited capacity.

When will that spending recover?

This depends largely on when the pandemic subsides and how quickly the economy recovers. The recent rise in used car sales indicates a pent-up demand for car purchases. We expect auto digital ad spend will grow 21.4% in 2021 to $13.29 billion, slightly below its pre-pandemic peak.

How will the contraction affect ad spending by format?

Auto advertisers will reduce spending on search by 32.9%, display by 10.0%, and video (a subset of display) by 5.0%. This reflects how advertisers are focusing on brand marketing over direct-response during the pandemic.

What share of total US digital ad spending will auto have?

We anticipate that auto will make up 8.1% of total US digital ad spend in 2020, down from 10.1% in 2019. Its share has trended downward since we began tracking the vertical: from 12.1% in 2016, to 11.3% in 2017, to 10.6% in 2018.

WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? This report details our annual forecast of US automotive digital ad spending. It includes a comprehensive overview of total digital ad spending, as well as estimates by channel, device, and format and the pandemic’s impact on these figures.

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