MediaRadar Blog

Did Event Advertisers Really Shift Dollars Into Digital?

Did Event Advertisers Really Shift Dollars Into Digital?

Without trade shows in 2020, B2B marketers were forced to quickly reallocate their event budgets. 

Did marketers shift portions of their budget to digital ads? In short, yes.

Using MediaRadar data, we analyzed the behaviors of the top twenty thousand event sponsors and exhibitors from 2019. The data makes it clear that COVID-19 impacted event sponsor advertising strategies—and in certain industries more than others. 

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Uncertainty and Budget Cuts Present Challenges for B2B Marketers

2020’s unpredictability forced marketers to be highly strategic with their dollars, and to develop new advertising and promotional strategies.

As advertisers navigated new territory—and with tighter budgets—uncertainty increased.

A Chief Marketer survey published in July found that twice as many marketers were less certain of their budgets than they were before COVID-19. Even though the height of the pandemic seemed to have passed, a quarter of the participating Fortune 1000 marketers said that they were “uncertain of where any budget increases would be invested.” 

Though many didn’t know where they would prioritize their budgets, there were certain trending ideas.

The same survey found that 64% of B2B marketers planned on allocating live event spending to virtual events, while 42% said they would redistribute dollars to content marketing and 39% said to digital advertising.

As B2B marketers created new online content, digital ads became the chief driver to the content. Ads directed audiences to the newly created webinars, virtual events, blogs, white papers, podcasts, and more. In the data below, we share who shifted their online advertising budgets the most. 

MediaRadar Insights

For our analysis, we identified the top twenty thousand event sponsors and exhibitors from 2019. Then, we compared their digital spend on B2B websites in Jan-July 2020 to the same time period in 2019. The same group of event sponsors and exhibitors spent 26% more dollars on digital B2B ads this year.

Categories Shifting B2B Digital Budgets January-July 2020 vs. 2019

The distribution of the increase is not even: Tech and financial firms lead the charge in converting their event budgets to digital ad spend. At the same time, the industry, services and wholesale sectors decreased their digital spending, but not by nearly as much.

While many industries’ spending stayed relatively even, this may reflect an increase in brands’ allocation to digital, considering that budgets are tighter this year. Though we don’t see each brand’s unique breakdown of marketing reallocation, we can see the brands who’ve upped their spending the most.

Some of the companies increasing B2B digital ad spend the most include:

  • Deloitte
  • IPG
  • SAP
  • Ernst & Young
  • Cisco
  • Salesforce

It is interesting to note that there are many B2B companies entering the digital advertising space for the first time. Almost 700 event advertisers from last year ran digital B2B ads in Jan-July 2020, despite not doing so in 2019. This reflects a major change for these companies—and one that will likely continue long term. 

As ad dollars continue to shift online, we’ll continue to share our findings here.

For more updates like this, stay tuned. Subscribe to our blog for more updates on coronavirus and its mark on the economy.