As the B2B space evolves and matures, so must its marketing. In recent years, consumer-facing brands have come to terms with the “adapt-or-die” scenario. Now, B2B brands are following suit by adopting people-based marketing and new levels of personalization. In response to opportunity (as much as out of necessity), B2B advertisers are shifting their advertising dollars towards digital advertising.
B2B focuses on digital advertising in 2019
According to a December 2018 study by eMarketer, the US digital B2B ad spend is on the rise, increasing from $2.9 billion in 2015 to $6.08 billion in 2018. The biggest jump in spend, a 24.9% increase, occurred between 2017 and 2018. The following month, January of 2019, Mark Treacy, Head of Sales – B2B at Oracle, predicted that B2B marketers would continue to invest more in data and analytics capabilities, which would increase the competitive edge within the industry.
In July 2019, my company, advertising intelligence and sales enablement platform, MediaRadar decided to take a closer look. So, we analyzed whether B2B brands had shifted to buying both print and digital ads, as a follow up to our 2018 B2B recap trend report, which had found that most B2B brands would only spend on either print or digital. In fact, according to the 2018 report, only 11% of brands bought both print and digital placements.
Our deep dive in July of 2019 revealed that, while not much has changed, there was a slight deviation toward digital and print ad spend within B2B in the first half of 2019. The study also found that B2B companies’ digital ad spend rose 36% year-over-year, when comparing the first half of 2018 with the first half of 2019. This indicates a pretty significant shift toward digital ad spend within the B2B space.
Who is taking the lead?
Industries paving the way towards increased digital advertising include both those that are spending the most on digital ads as well as those who are increasing their ad spend the most. Our study revealed that the B2B industries that spent the most on digital ads in 2019 included the Pharmaceutical, Finance, and Professional Services industries. The B2B industries that increased their ad spend the most year-over-year were Cigarettes & Tobacco, Beer, Wine & Spirits, and Beverages (Non-Alcoholic).
Looking at the top companies within these categories, the analysis found that the digital ad leaders in the pharma industry included Endo International, Pfizer, and GlaxoSmithKline. Pfizer, who has partnered with multiple platforms to serve its programmatic ads, has spent over $100 million across all media. They have placed video, direct and programmatic ads on major domains in 2019.
Additionally, the data revealed that TD Ameritrade, Schwab, and Vanguard lead the pack within the finance sector. Vanguard, specifically, ran display ads on major online publications such as U.S. News & World Report and BBC.
Within professional services, our research saw that Informa, USPS, and Accenture spent the most on digital ads. USPS, in particular, placed display ads everywhere from Jezebel to The Economist.
Recently, a LinkedIn Marketing Solutions blog by Sean Callahan reported that these major companies are all part of the rapidly growing $6 billion B2B digital advertising market in the US. According to Callahan, the expansion into digital advertising has been triggered by several factors, including increased popularity of both account-based and people-based marketing within the B2B space, the advancement of programmatic platforms, and the increased power of personalized content sequencing.
While B2B companies are certainly making strides when it comes to following digital trends, there are still areas left to improve. Most B2B brands are still focusing their advertising spend on print. According to our July 2019 data, 56% of B2B advertisers are spending on print only, consistent between both 2018 and 2019. However, now that it is clear where the industry is headed, we can only wonder how both these brands and publications will soon adapt, and grow the share of B2B companies using both channels.
The B2B industry must take stronger leaps in digital advertising to fully reap its benefits. However, they are moving in the right direction and, as the space continues to transform, so will it’s advertising tactics.