Why has Spending on Digital Marketing Outpaced Traditional Marketing?

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    When is the last time you watched cable TV? It’s been awhile for many of us. 2019 is the year when the money spent on digital advertising finally overtook spending on traditional ads. It is expected that by 2023, digital marketing will account for more than two-thirds of total ad spending. Here is forecast of Digital vs. Traditional Ad Spending in the united States for the period 2018-2021:

    digital marketing ad spending

    The consumer attention shift to digital platforms has determined advertisers to now turn to digital to seek the incremental gains in reach and revenue which are disappearing in traditional media advertising.

    Traditional ad spending will decline from $109.48 billion in 2019 to $107.13 billion in 2020. During that same period, digital ad spending will increase from $129.34 billion to $151.29 billion. This shift has been on for a while as digital takes up an increasing portion of our lives. Studies have shown that an average person spends at least 4 hours every day on his/her smartphone – and that’s not taking into account for the time people browse the Internet at work or spend watching movies.

    As the digital revolution picks up pace, more and more options are available for the digital activity, and those options include expanded advertising. Advertisers are constantly looking for ways to find new ways to reach people, from social media and blogs to over-the-top devices and tablets.

    Television had been the #1 advertising platform until 2018, when the ad spending dropped from $114.84 million to 109.48 billion in 2019, while the magazines and newspapers were the first to suffer major declines in advertising since mid-2000s.

    The Many Advantages of Digital Marketing

    It’s no secret why digital marketing spending is growing faster with each passing month. Digital marketing’s distinct advantages over traditional media make it a much more efficient and cost-effective resource for most companies.

    Data Collection

    The most critical advantage of digital marketing is how detailed the data collections can be. Through current digital marketing, it’s possible to reach any audience and gather real-time performance data. 93% of online experiences start with search engines, giving companies an amazing starting place to put ads and get attention to their products and services. Data is always changing, and digital marketers can narrow their target audience down to precise demographics.

    Running traditional ads, marketers usually gather data at the end of the advertisement’s run. Digital marketing tells you in real-time how the ad is doing while it is still online and it allows you to edit and adjust it to make it even more efficient.

    Precise Demographic Targeting

    TV ads reach a much bigger audience than digital ads, but that audience is not as precise. Through digital marketing, it is possible to collect specific demographic data relating to the product or service a company is trying to sell. This data makes narrowing target audiences easier and more efficient, ultimately leading to a better ROI than traditional marketing.

    Data Collecting can go as deep as finding a customer’s income, marital status, age, and even household size. Customer’s browsing and past purchases history can also be tracked to give a more thorough target audience.


    Digital marketing tends to be cheaper than traditional marketing, making it easier for smaller businesses to get started. Costs will always depend on the size of the advertisements, who sees the ad, and which platform the ad is on.

    Traditional advertising can get very costly – even getting close to $30 CPM (cost per thousand impressions) using Broadcast TV. Social media advertising, by comparison, only costs about $2.50 CPM on average.

    So, Why are Advertisers spending so much money on Digital Marketing?

    Digital ad spend is up because it works. Companies want real-time, cost-effective results – and digital marketing gives them exactly that.

    In any marketing or advertising campaign, efficiency is key. Digital advertising delivers the best return on investment for many businesses because it allows for precision targeting, real-time data collection, and at an approachable cost.

    About The Author:

    Chris Kirksey

    Chris Kirksey

    Chris Kirksey is the CEO of Direction, a digital marketing agency reflecting the culmination of a 15+ year obsession with digital marketing. It all started with an eBay business at 9 years old, then transitioning from domain investing and website building. After a 6-year US Army career leading intelligence collection teams both in the US and overseas, Chris now brings a sophisticated approach from cryptologic language and adversary data intelligence to digital marketing intelligence. His precision and planning of military campaigns, now reflected in digital marketing campaigns, have proven successful for clients in industries ranging from law firms to technology startups.