Ad Execs Bullish On Digital, Marketers More So On Social: Data Reveals 'Disconnect' With Agencies

Advertising executives -– both marketers and their agency representatives -– continue to increase their optimism toward digital media options, and are beginning to swing toward it as more of a “branding” than a performance “option,” but there are some significant disconnects between the way they look at various digital media silos. While agency executives tend to be far more bullish on the overall use of digital media, marketers are much more optimistic about budgeting for social media.

The findings, which are part of new, detailed analysis coming out of Advertiser Perceptions’ Fall 2011 survey on ad executive attitudes and optimism about media, show the overall index for digital -– including online display, search and video advertising –- trending upward, but the sentiment appears to be driven primarily by agencies. That insight is interesting, because the bottom line of big agencies appears to be benefitting from their continuing shift toward a greater reliance on digital media, according to a Pivotal Research analysis released Monday (OMD, March 13).



“But there is a discrepancy in the way marketers and agencies are seeing it,” says Randy Cohen, a partner in AP -- which produces an ongoing series of ad industry tracking studies under its Advertiser Intelligence Reports banner, including this one. “It’s a disconnect,” he says, adding, “But agencies tend to do what marketers want them to.”

If that’s the case, social media should be the primary beneficiary, according to Cohen, because marketer sentiment is building much more favorably toward social networks versus the rest of the digital mix.

“The mindset is that they’re going to turn into a big share of the digital pie going to social in the next few months,” says Cohen, citing data suggesting that “social media rules the day in mindshare.”

In fact, the data shows that Facebook continues to build in overall ad industry “buying intentions,” and currently ranks nearly twice as strong as the next-biggest media options. Interestingly, the Google Display Network, and Google’s AdWords/Display platform, have shifted into the No. 2 and No 3 spots among ad executive buying intentions for this year, supplanting once-dominant Yahoo’s display ad platform, and previous third-place ranker YouTube.

The shift toward social also represents a bit of a paradox, says Cohen, because most ad executives still rank it mostly as a “performance” medium versus a “brand-focused medium,” with indexes of 137 and 69, respectively, against those two criteria.

Cohen says that’s a paradox, because the overall sentiment toward digital media is that it is shifting more into a brand-focused advertising option. He says AP’s most recent data shows those two criteria to be almost even, with 49% of the respondents citing “brand” versus 51% citing “performance” as the main criteria for buying digital media over the next 12 months. That’s good news for the online industry, which has been trying to overcome its performance roots in hopes of attracting bigger brand dollars.

Cohen says the fact that marketers are so keen on social, and that they still see it primarily as a performance medium, indicates how much “confusion” there currently is in the digital advertising marketplace.

He attributes that to the fact that options that might be perceived as being more brand-focused, like online video and display advertising networks, and the major portals are not seen as “the new shiny thing” that Facebook and other social media platforms currently are in the minds of marketers.

One thing that does bode well for online video advertising networks heading into this year’s upfront advertising marketplace is that it is currently trending stronger than any other digital ad option except for mobile, which is still nascent. On the downside, agency executives are much more optimistic about online video’s prospects than their clients are. According to AP’s data, there currently is a 14-point index gap between the two on their plans to buy online video over the next 12 months: a 58 for agencies, and a 44 for marketers. Moreover, while agencies gained two index points, marketers dropped two points from AP’s Spring 2011 survey.

Overall Buying Intentions


Fall 2010/Index

Spring 2011/Index

Fall 2011/Index









Yahoo Display


Yahoo Display


Google Display







Google AdWords*







Yahoo Display



Google Display


Google Display





Top 25 Average


Top 25 Average


Top 25 Average


Source: Advertiser Perceptions. A 100 index equals the average of all digital media brands. *Google AdWords Display Network.

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