Social Media Is Slowing, But Gaming Is On The Rise For Advertisers: WARC

Social Media Is Slowing, But Gaming Is On The Rise For Advertisers: WARC

Privacy and brand safety in a programmatic world, a slowdown in social media growth and the advertising potential provided by gaming and podcasts are the three main themes from 2019, finds the World Advertising Research Center (WARC).

The findings were drawn from a unique analysis of readership across all of this year’s Global Advertising Trends reports.

WARC Data managing director James McDonald said: “As 2019 draws to a close and we look ahead to 2020, for our last Global Ad Trends report of the year we have reviewed all of the data published throughout 2019 to draw out the key insights and main themes for practitioners.

“A bellwether for the industry at large, the report is a good starting point to help brands and agencies alike prepare for the new year ahead.”

Privacy and brand safety in a programmatic world

Changing consumer sentiment towards data use was a major topic of interest for practitioners this year. Research shows many consumers have taken steps to limit their online footprint in light of concerns around data misuse, with 44 per cent limiting the amount of data they share online and over a quarter (27 per cent) deploying an ad blocker.

The issue of data privacy has been noted by practitioners, with the majority stating in WARC’s Marketer’s Toolkit that provisions around data protection are now in place, though there is still more to do – 14 per cent have no data protection strategy in place, rising to 23 per cent in Asia.

A continuing problem is how these data inform ad buying, particularly programmatically, where 50 per cent of practitioners agree that the ad tech has yet to live up to its potential. Concerns around brand safety, context and negative adjacency have not gone away. Privacy will continue to be on the agenda for 2020, not least due to the introduction of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and web browsers are starting to take a lead on the issue. Contextual advertising (based on non-personal information) is one response to this.

The social slowdown

In June’s edition of WARC’s Global Ad Trends, it was found that ad growth in the social and messaging sector had halved over the year. WARC’s Marketer’s Toolkit finds that one in five marketers intends to reduce spend on Facebook in 2020, with Twitter and Snap also facing the prospect of muted revenue growth. This could be a signal of a changing of the guard; Americans aged 13 to 16 years-old are already using TikTok more than they are Facebook and Twitter.

This cooling in growth comes at a time when trust in information on social media reached new lows and calls for greater regulation for tech and social media companies grow louder. The highest levels of mistrust are recorded in Great Britain (83 per cent), Sweden (81 per cent) and France (79 per cent). The US is placed seventh on 70 per cent. Internet adspend excluding Google and Facebook is expected to have declined for the second year running in 2019.

There is also a rising distrust in influencer content worldwide, borne out of concerns around authenticity and credibility. Indeed, in the UK, influencers are seen as less credible than politicians.

Ad potential for gaming and podcasts

Almost one in four adults has watched a gaming livestream in the past month, and this rate rises to almost one in three among 16-24 year-olds. Alphabet-owned YouTube and Amazon-owned Twitch are vying for eyeballs, but the fact that over 90 per cent of content on the latter is live-streamed presents opportunities for advertisers looking to reach young audiences spending less time with linear TV.

Podcast advertising has potential; adspend is expected to double to $1.6bn by 2022 and the New York Times is already reporting strong revenue growth from the format. Listeners are highly engaged and research shows that ads increase brand consideration; 17 per cent of listeners are ‘much more likely’ to consider a brand after hearing their ad during a podcast, while 37 per cent are ‘somewhat more likely to’. But context is key, and a standardised measurement framework is still to be formally established.

Other new key media intelligence on WARC Data across regions


  • Consumers: half of consumers have boycotted a brand with different values
  • Brands & Advertisers: retail brands account for half of in-app gaming adspend
  • Media & Tech: marketers are using Instagram Stories to boost e-commerce


  • Consumers: over 80 per cent of Americans are concerned about data privacy
  • Brands & Advertisers: just 39 per cent of brands integrate consumer data in their loyalty schemes
  • Media & Tech: smartphone penetration tops 80 per cent in Brazil

Asia Pacific

  • Consumers: Digital video consumption doubles in Hong Kong
  • Brands & Advertisers: 76 per cent of Southeast Asian marketers report poor customer growth
  • Media & Tech: brand safety and fraud limiting programmatic in-app spend are top concerns

Europe, Middle East and Africa

  • Consumers: 15 per cent of consumers avoid linear TV and only stream
  • Brands & Advertisers: silos are the biggest obstacle to data-driven marketing


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