Lies, Statistics And Digital Advertising Growth

Is it just me, or does anyone else want to tell The Guardian a thing or two this morning? It has a huge scare story that internet advertising is slowing down and being replaced by cinema as the fastest-growing medium.

It cites privacy and brand safety scares as the leading causes of the channel losing its "mantle as the fastest growing sector of the global advertising market for the time in two decades."

The shock statistic is that after years of stellar yearly growth, digital advertising will see an extra 10% spent on the channel in 2020, according to Zenith. Cinema, on the other hand, will grow at 12%.

I'm not sure about you, but have you ever seen a bigger case of comparing apples with oranges?

Let's start with size. In the UK, eMarketer suggests digital advertising will account for two in three of every advertising pounds spent on media this year. 

If you want to get a little more granular, the Advertising Association puts 2018 spend on search and online at around GBP12bn. Cinema weighs in at a quarter of a billion. To take some poetic licence with numbers, that's getting on for a channel that is nearly fifty times larger.

Now, here's your GCSE maths starter for ten. Which would you rather have, 10% of 12 billion or 12% of 250 million? Would you rather have an extra billion plus next year or a figure around forty times smaller?

I know this sounds a little patronising, so forgive me, but you would not imagine how many companies try to prove something by saying 40% of people agree that they do x. My reply is always that this means 60% disagree with x, and therefore the argument behind what you're trying to prove. 

This lacks of maths numeracy is everywhere. We all know the point The Guardian is trying to make today that global growth in online advertising is slowing down. However, who hasn't been on a publication or working for a brand that claims to be the "fastest growing" because it's new and growth appears to be more impressive as a percentage than dollars in the bank?

So the basic point that another channel will grow more is backed up by the Zenith figures, but the point is that digital is still in the top spot and growing. Yes, there are privacy concerns and brand safety issues, but the latter can be alleviated with technology.

As for privacy, well, we'll have to wait and see what the ICO makes of the programmatic industry's response to the instruction that it needs to be more transparent before Christmas or face the consequences.

However, put it this way. If you have budget, why wouldn't you prioritise digital channels that know what a person just searched for or what they're interested in?

It should be the beginning and end of all campaigns, but digital has soared to be the number one channel for a very obvious reason -- the better targeting offered by data. 

Yes, when it's used to attempt to influence an election people get upset, but the four in five people who don't use an ad blocker, in my opinion, really aren't all that bothered that they get more relevant ads because Google or Facebook knows they are looking for a new set of saucepans. They also understand that an FMCG didn't mean to advertise against a terrorist video, embarrassing though it is.

As digital advertising keeps on growing, the percentage by which is will expand each year will begin to come down. I don't think you can really read a lot more than that into these figures. 

2 comments about "Lies, Statistics And Digital Advertising Growth".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, July 22, 2019 at 12:08 p.m.

    The same thing happens here all the time. A very small player scores a huge percentage increase in ad dollars or subscribers--which is not surprising as small things always grow at a faster rate than huge things---and the average person mistakes percent growth for size. So the small thing is huge?----not. As for the "ad spending" figures this is mainly BS. The only fair way to interpret these is by type of advertising and national vs. local, not overall.

  2. John Grono from GAP Research, July 22, 2019 at 6:52 p.m.

    Bravo Sean.

    Let's not think of the billions of advertising dollars that have been mis-invested by such mathematical chicanery.

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