For the First Time, Consumers Are More Likely to View Ads Online Than on TV

Diving into GroupM's new 'State of the Digital' report

Last year, linear TV held a 38 percent share over online's 36 percent. GroupM

GroupM unveiled its 2018 “State of the Digital” report, which predicts where people worldwide are expected to consume content in the coming year. And for the first time, the WPP network sees online surpassing every other vertical—linear TV, print and radio—in terms of where people will choose to spend their time with media.

The study, when weighted by expenditure, estimates that consumers will spend an average of 9.73 hours per day with personal media in 2018, up from 9.68 hours in 2017. GroupM predicts online to take a 38 percent share of total time spent with media; for the first time, linear TV trails behind and is expected to end the year with a 37 percent share. The group predicts radio and print to then take 18 percent and 7 percent shares, respectively.

Last year, linear TV held a 38 percent share over online’s 36 percent.

GroupM noted in the report that it wasn’t able to accurately measure TV’s online distribution, so those numbers were “lost in that online aggregate.”

The report likened the rise of digital ad expenditures to that of global e-commerce spend, which it also sees jumping considerably in 2018. Based off the 35 countries that supplied e-commerce totals for this study, GroupM predicts the dollars spent online to climb 15 percent to $2.4 billion in 2018 from $2.1 billion last year.

This is also the first time GroupM predicts e-commerce shopping to “grow notably faster” than Internet usership, which is estimated to climb 4 percent in 2018, compared to 6 percent in 2017.

Across the 35 reporting countries, the network estimates 47 percent of all online display investment to be transacted programmatically in 2018, from 44 percent in 2017 and just 31 percent in 2016.

GroupM’s research also touched on which of the hot-button issues around emerging tech are really top of mind for marketers, according to employees surveyed within its WPP network. For example, respondents described blockchain as a “slow, clunky and expensive” tool they don’t see as practical just yet.

“Blockchain’s main attraction is its distributed ledger, which tells everyone everything and thus presents the opportunity to reduce inefficiency or cheating,” Adam Smith, GroupM Futures director, said in a statement. “However, its Achilles’ heel is the need to keep every participating computer updated with everything all the time, and that’s too slow for a real-time world.”

The study’s respondents within GroupM reported improved development around AI and data use, although they admitted the need for further improvement on the latter. Those respondents brushed off the threat of clients in-housing their work, saying that it’s “more often talked about than done.” GroupM employees surveyed “reported [more] hybrid arrangements” than full in-house operations, “with clients often happy to take on strategy but leave risky and expensive execution to agencies.”

Clients are hiring more digital staff in-house and leaning more on specialist agencies than generalists, according to the study.

In a statement, GroupM global CEO Kelly Clark listed automation and talent as the “big themes in advertising’s current revolution.”

“One of the downsides of specialization is the increase in specialists who know more and more about less and less,” Clark said in the statement. “We have to use automation to liberate brand power so talented people can look across the entire media ecosystem to help clients optimize short-term results and create long-term value.”

"One of the downsides of specialization is the increase in specialists who know more and more about less and less."

Survey respondents predict the cost of digital video ad placement in North America to rise 5 to 13 percent by the end of 2018. This is due to a higher demand for premium, brand-safe content and a lack of measurement on many platforms (OTT services and mobile included) that leave “little measurable inventory to plan and buy, which in turn drives up pricing,” according to the study.

As the digital landscape becomes increasingly more complex, U.S. survey respondents noted the benefits of the Google and Facebook duopoly.

Marketers highlighted several reasons why they value strategic partnerships with the tech behemoths, including: Google Search remains critical for clients’ marketing efforts; YouTube, despite all its brand safety issues, is important for scaled and premium content and for targeting a younger audience; Google AdX via DoubleClick Bid Manager (DBM) is viewed as the most transparent programmatic service, allowing advertisers to buy YouTube with other digital media; and while Facebook works hard to improve its video viewability, it’s still reaching large, young audiences, thanks to Instagram.

Google’s TrueView says it’s built on the promise that marketers will pay only when a person views their video ads. According to GroupM research, the average skip rate on TrueView is between 70 percent and 75 percent, so view-through rates over 20 to 25 percent “successful on the platform.” The group noted in the report that “one of the keys to outperformance is ensuring you have short, catchy content to grab the consumers’ attention.”

On Facebook in the U.S., GroupM found around 17 percent of ads under six seconds were at least 50 percent in view at 50 percent completion last year. That’s over three times better than creative lengths at 10 to 15 seconds and five times better than those at 30 to 60 seconds.

In its report, GroupM suggested that marketers should convey a brand message “within the first second or so” of every social video, whether it’s on Facebook or not.

@kitten_mouse Lindsay Rittenhouse is a staff writer at Adweek, where she specializes in covering the world of agencies and their clients.