“While we have long quibbled with the notion that time with media should equate to [ad] spending on media, it is worth noting that by our estimates, total spending on TV advertising amounted to $63 billion in 2013. Meanwhile, total spending on digital advertising amounted to $43 billion,” Brian Wieser wrote in a report to Wall Street investors this morning. Wieser, who is an analyst at Pivotal Research Group, and used to be the head of forecasting at Interpublic’s Magna Global unit, knows something about how and why advertisers allocate their ad budgets on media. His main point is that based on the most recent estimates from Nielsen, “digital” is actually reaping a disproportionate share of advertising relative to consumer usage.
By Wieser’s estimate, digital ad spending currently represents 68% of TV’s total, but is generating only 35% of consumer time spent. “If time did equate to money,” he writes, “either too much is being spent on Internet advertising or too little is being spent on TV.”
But as already noted, Wieser says he doesn’t accept that premise, and instead recommends that a “more accurate” way of thinking about ad spending is that it's always a “function of ‘least-bad’" alternatives for a given marketer.
In this scenario, Wieser says demand for digital media is often driven by long-tail marketers -- small businesses and e-commerce marketers -- that view the Internet as delivering an effective ROI. Large mainstream consumer brands, by contrast, remain more focused on “engagement-based” and “awareness-based” goals that are unlikely to be surpassed by TV’s “perceived effectiveness in this regard, but also because of the relatively broader use of the medium and ease with which reach and frequency may be accomplished on TV.”
In other words, the allocation of advertising budgets is not a simple, one-size-fits-all logic. Different advertisers use their allocation of media differently, and much of the growth of digital ad spending is a function of brands that likely may not have used TV much, if at all, in the first place. The bottom line is that the sum total of all those allocations currently gives a disproportionate weight toward digital, not TV.