Big Bump in Ad Spend May Lead to Better Year for Marketers


You could describe the last few months as “bumpy” for marketing, tech, and advertising. But new data from U.S. Ad Market Tracker indicates a possible smoother ride into the fall.

This summer, the content, marketing, advertising, and tech worlds got a bit odd. Everybody traveled, though everybody also predicted a recession that never materialized. Many people, especially in the tech sector, struggled with the slowdown, layoffs, and general ickiness – yes, that’s a technical term – that seemed to pervade the marketplace.

Now, as the summer’s end draws closer, U.S. ad spending grew by 6.2% in July, according to the U.S. Ad Market Tracker. That’s the biggest increase – the only increase except a 2.5% blip in May – since July 2022.

U.S. ad spend grew 6.2% in July, the biggest increase in 12 months via @SMI_Data @MediaPost @Robert_Rose @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

CMI’s chief strategy advisor Robert Rose explains what these financial tea leaves may mean for marketing in this week’s CMI News video. Watch it below, or keep reading for the highlights:

Expect a ride up, especially in digital media

Even though big ad companies such as WPP put a bit of caution into their recent earnings reports, the U.S. Ad Market Tracker indicates the remainder of 2023 may see more gains or at least less severe declines.

Digital media seems to be the big winner in ad growth when compared to traditional media advertising. In January 2023, the split between digital and traditional media was about 50-50, according to the U.S. Ad Market Tracker research. In July 2023, digital media enjoyed a 67% share while traditional had one-third of the ad buy.

“Trying to predict where marketing spend is going is a little like when you’re standing on a boat in turbulent waters and trying to eat your lunch,” Robert says. “It’s a tough balancing act at best. You’re liable to end up with much of your lunch on your chest and if you do it for long, you’re likely to get sick.”

Predicting where #marketing spend is going is like standing on a boat in turbulent waters and eating your lunch, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

When WPP lowered its guidance a few weeks ago, it noted that tech company marketing made up about 18% of its business. Robert says it’s no wonder WPP feels a bit squeamish about the market.

He explains, “We tend to outweigh our feelings on the economy based on the performance of the tech and media sectors because they’re popular. The tech sector is going through a large correction and media has its own challenges with strikes, the ongoing disruption of the advertising model, and its relationship to the technology sector.”

Robert’s recent conversation with someone in the travel industry led him to learn they’re feeling more bullish than ever – citing the huge growth in leisure travel over the last 12 months.

3 signals to make helpful predictions for marketers

To read the tea leaves of the general business growth mindset to inform the growth of marketing, Robert focuses on three categories:

  • Business travel: It has been slow to return to pre-pandemic levels, but the Global Business Travel Association reports a comeback is happening faster than expected.
  • Ad spending: As noted earlier, the unexpected uptick in July should lead to continued growth through the end of this year.
  • Marketing job growth: This category has been really hard to read, given AI’s disruptions. The data all point to good growth, but it sure doesn’t feel that way. Not a lot of companies have higher headcounts right now.

So Robert feels bullish on two of the three primary categories. “I’m cautiously optimistic about where we’ll be for the fourth quarter and feel like 2024 might be even better,” he says. “A lot can get in the way of that, of course – political, economic, and even technological – could cause rougher seas. But as September kicks off, I think we’ve got smoother waters ahead.”

@Robert_Rose says he’s cautiously optimistic about the #marketing spend for Q4 in 2023 and beyond via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

What do you think? It’s the first of September. How are you feeling about marketing, your business, and the ability to finish 2023 strong? Let us know in the comments.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute


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