Whether we’re talking about B2B, B2C or B2XYZ, the pandemic and everything in its wake has put most companies through the wringer.
Advertisers have had a rough time, too.
Between shrinking marketing budgets, ongoing labor shortages, uncertain economic conditions and an evolving digital advertising world dropping tried-and-true technology out the window, most advertisers are fighting to keep their heads above water.
The pandemic hit B2B advertisers especially hard as companies across industry lines reduced spending. With the pandemic seemingly in the rearview mirror, many advertisers were eager to open their wallets again—only to be hit by warning signs of recession in the US.
Now, as we inch closer to 2023, these advertisers are at a crossroads.
Reduce spending until the economy pulls itself out of the gutter? Or keep spending under the assumption that another few months in the red could be their downfall?
Here’s what the data tells us, and what it means for B2B Media in 2023.
How Are Advertisers Spending on B2B Media in 2022?
After a prolonged period of pandemic-restricted spending that saw marketing budgets drop to just 6.4% of overall company revenue in 2021, advertisers came out of the gates in 2022 ready to spend on B2B media.
Through July, 66.5k B2B companies invested more than $2.3b on ads on 1.8k B2B print and online publications, representing a 3% YoY increase from the same period in 2021. (Spending was up by 8% between January and April.)
Broken down by format, B2B print spending increased by 2% YoY while B2B digital spending increased by 6% during the same time.
While that represents a modest increase that may normally indicate trouble on the horizon, we’re in uncharted waters. In 2022, even the slightest increase in B2B spending signals that advertisers are regaining their footing.
Unfortunately, their excitement was short-lived as rumblings of a recession forced them to rethink those increases.
Between May (before the recession) and July (officially in a recession), B2B ad spending decreased by 3% YoY compared to 2021.
That said, the recession—and lingering COVID concerns—isn’t impacting all B2B advertisers equally.
B2B Advertisers Are Reading the Headlines
The pandemic hit most advertisers right where it hurts—their wallets.
That said, others fared reasonably well (all things considered), like online retailers (e.g., Amazon), streaming services (e.g., HBO Max), workplace solutions (e.g., Zoom) and on-demand workout equipment (e.g., Peleton).
This is the same story we’re seeing now as the economy turns on its head and some concerns about the pandemic linger.
Professional Services advertisers, for example, have increased their spending by 11% YoY through June, driven mainly by a spending spree from Professional Associations (31% of this category’s spending), including AARP & Infectious Disease Society of America: IDSA.
For AARP, the increase comes when many people from older generations are struggling with the job market and delaying retirement.
The increase by advertisers at the IDSA undoubtedly comes as they try to keep the public informed on all things related to COVID-19 and keep the momentum going as the end of the pandemic is in sight.
At the same time, Staffing & Recruiting advertisers increased spending by 23% YoY as they ride the wave of the Great Resignation and help the 50mm or so people who quit their jobs find a new one.
While these advertisers are using the headlines to justify spending, others are seeing them and pulling back.
With continued supply chain and logistical issues impacting the global economy, which are predicted to last through at least Q3, some advertisers are proceeding with caution.
For instance, Industry advertisers decreased their spending by 5% YoY. Advertisers for Industrial Machinery and Chemical companies did the same, spending 1% and 5% YoY less, respectively, than they did last year.
Again, the minimal decrease in spending indicates that these advertisers aren’t overly concerned. Unlike the pandemic’s unknown timeline, advertisers sort of know what to expect when it comes to recession-era spending.
Is it good?
No, but at least there’s a page in their playbook to reference.
Still, there’s no denying that all B2B advertisers are keeping a close eye on the headlines and shifting their budgets accordingly.
They’ll continue to do so in 2023.
Trade Shows Are Back
Name a trade show.
Now think about the last time you went in person.
It was probably in 2019.
In 2020 alone, the exhibition industry saw its revenue decrease by 68%, while exhibition-related output dropped by $224b.
The rise of virtual events provided a much-needed lifeline, but to say event organizers aren’t excited to welcome attendees in person would be an understatement.
For example, Orlando welcomed the Global Pet Expo in March, with 722 exhibitors and 5,400 attendees heading to the Sunshine state. (It’s worth noting that the Global Pet Expo did see a decline in exhibitors and attendees by 1,000 and 6,000, respectively).
A few months later, the International Security Conference & Exposition (ISC) saw attendance and revenue jump by 88% and 19% from YR 2019.
The World of Asphalt, the leading trade show for the aggregate, asphalt, pavement maintenance, and traffic safety industry sectors, also had a successful season—going as far as to say that they smashed all records.
The strong attendance isn’t a fluke and mirrors what’s happening in the world.
For the ISC, attendance and revenue increase as safety concerns are top of mind.
A new infrastructure bill and future investment of $1t in public works projects across the US over the next 10 years undoubtedly drove interest for the World of Asphalt.
Even the Global Pet Expo benefited from the pet-buying boom during the pandemic. While attendance was down, it still attracted thousands of exhibitors and attendees.
Whatever the industry, it appears that live events are back.
Similar to how B2B ad spending shadowed current events, event popularity seems to be doing the same.
This means that certain events, like those revolving around travel, digital workplace experiences and health technology, could be uniquely positioned to attract massive audiences for the rest of 2022 and into 2023.
Are B2B Advertisers Back?
Yes and no, but mainly yes.
For the most part, we think it’s safe to say that pandemic-related concerns have faded.
That said, it’s also safe to say that new concerns are popping up for some advertisers as the shifting economy throws some unknowns their way.
Whether we’re dealing with a pandemic, recession or something in between, ad spending on B2B media will almost always follow the headlines.
The key is to do the same and pinpoint opportunities that may not be impacted (as much).
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