IAB: The Impact Of COVID-19 On Data Spending

While COVID-19 has impacted the short- to mid-term marketing spend for marketers, the long-term impact is much less certain, according to The State of Data report conducted and published by the IAB Programmatic + Data Center of Excellence and Winterberry Group.

COVID-19 is likely to drive up to 20% in data cuts in the second and third quarters of 2020. In fact, most survey respondents expect the short-term impact of COVID-19 to require budgetary cuts and reallocation of priorities. There is less agreement on the outlook in Q4 2020 and beyond.

  • 64.2% -- decrease in Q2/Q3 2020 marketing spend
  • 57.2% -- delay planned marketing efforts and campaigns
  • 49.1% -- change messaging and content priorities
  • 37.7% -- change mix of marketing and advertising channels
  • 26.4% -- de-emphasize certain products or business lines
  • 22.6% -- shift budget from brand initiatives to performance-oriented marketing
  • 20.8% -- decrease Q4 2020 and beyond marketing spend
  • 18.9% -- change tactics with respect to audience data, analytics and measurement
  • 17.0% -- increase Q4 2020 and beyond marketing spend



The report, published late July, aims to help U.S. advertising, marketing and media buyers better understand how their peers are investing in and using audience data.

The report estimates historical U.S. advertiser and marketer spend on third-party audience data; spend on services, technologies and hybrid activation solutions that support the use of data across consumer and B2B marketing; and outlines the major demand drivers, operational challenges, and other trends impacting investment in data and related activation solutions.

It also provides a benchmark for U.S. investments.

Some 57.1% said they have already increased their use of first-party data for targeting during the past 18 months. Many plan to continue their use in 2020. More have increased their use of first-party data for targeting.

  • 51.7% -- increased use of first-party and/or contextual data for targeting
  • 35.7% -- centralized all customer/CRM data into one repository
  • 35.7% -- increased investment on third-party analytics capabilities/resources
  • 33.3% -- onboarded or began process of onboarding new customer data platform (CDP)
  • 32.1% -- increased investment in internal analytics capabilities/resources
  • 28.6% -- audited addressable data sources, infrastructure, supporting processes
  • 26.2% -- conducted internal training sessions on data regulation and governance

Overall, $11.9 billion was invested in third-party audience data in 2019 by U.S. marketers, publishers and other data users, up 6.1% year-over-year growth and a significant slowdown from the 15.7% growth rate posted in 2018.

The IAB study attributes the slowdown primarily to a 0.8% decline in spending on terrestrial data used to support direct mail and other offline marketing efforts -- a total of $6.08 billion. Spending on data associated with digital channels grew to $5.1 billion.

This column was originally published in Inside Performance on July 23, 2020.

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