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Trends in digital ad marketing reflect volatile industry


Every year Silicon Valley holds a Code Conference. This may not sound of interest to those of us focusing on the marketing of businesses, nonprofits and practices, but it is an acclaimed event at which venture capitalist Mary Meeker delivers a must-view slideshow on Internet trends.

This year’s session apparently did not disappoint — Meeker delivered a pulsating 333-page slideshow. Vox reported on the findings in early June as did Marketing Dive.

So what is the news on internet marketing? In 2019, more than half of the world’s population is online.  Just think of it: 3.8 billion global users. Hard for your business to ignore. The data indicate that internet advertising is still enjoying “healthy” growth but with variations in ad types — programmatic display ads vs. the increasingly ubiquitous direct buying models. Think cellphone ads vs. website ordering sites.

Meeker also tracks smartphone sales and e-commerce growth rates, which are both still dramatically higher compared to retail sales. Further, she discusses the timely topic of internet privacy issues and potential regulatory hurdles. These are somewhat affecting quarterly digital ad sales yet enhancing the percentages of buyers of web ads via smaller digital advertisers such as Snap and Pinterest.

Marketers should be aware that the anticipated impact of potential regulation has actually already been helpful in addressing some of the user security concerns as the larger tech businesses seek to act swiftly in order to maintain their share. Fast Company noted that private, encrypted messaging on Facebook and its WhatsApp and Instagram apps has zoomed from 53% three years ago to 87% of global web traffic in 2019.

Your digital budget

So where should you spend digital ad dollars? Meeker also discussed the growth of digital innovation ad opportunities in voice technology assistants (like Amazon’s Alexa), wearables, and digital video. But mobile-based consumption is still an increasing star. In 2018, mobile ad spending was 34% of the total media ad spend in the U.S., and mobile utilized 33% of U.S. consumers’ time.

YouTube has gained significant viewers, indicating the merits of visual media focus and the value of its learning-powered software to enhance viewing connections. Thanks to great smartphone cameras, more than half of Twitter impressions now involve the use of visual content, not just text. Ads are now the norm within these formats.

Still another trend is the demographic emergence, GenZ and younger, of those who are now playing interactive games like Fortnite. This particular game has both a social media component of team play plus a watcher base and is considered a “disruptive” ad opportunity. In fact, the NFL and even Nike are partnering with Fortnite’s company, Epic, as gamers buy branded digital clothing for their characters.  With a global market estimate of 2.4 billion gamers worldwide last year, sports clothing businesses cannot ignore this recent media buying option.

With new places to inject digital ads and an acceleration of spending, the cost to attract new customers is also going up. Meeker views this trend as unsustainable and suggests free trials and unpaid memberships may need to increase; companies like DSW Shoes are already expanding special promotions.

She further fears, that “the internet will become more of a cesspool.” Removal of rapidly expanding problematic content affecting daily lives is a challenge.

For marketers, the world of advertising remains a constantly changing environment to get the best results for the organizations you serve. The goal is to develop a plan and track its success, while staying on top of new opportunities.


Glenda LeGendre is principal of Marketing & Strategic Communications and can be reached at [email protected]