2017 Marketing Budget Trends, by Channel

February 13, 2017

Which channels are marketers going to be investing more – and less – in this year? A review of studies from Econsultancy [download page] and Gartner offers a window into marketers’ plans for this year. Hint: social media marketing appears to be ripe for further spending, and enthusiasm around content marketing remains healthy.

Global Marketers’ Digital Marketing Budget Plans

The latest Quarterly Intelligence Briefing produced by Econsultancy in association with Adobe asked almost 3,500 company marketers around the world how their spending on various digital marketing channels and disciplines would change this year.

The areas of broadest agreement for spending hikes this year are social media marketing and content marketing, set for increases by 56% and 55% of respondents, respectively. These aren’t surprising given the recent levels of enthusiasm for these channels, but nevertheless the results indicate that such enthusiasm doesn’t seem to be waning. In fact, content marketing and social media engagement emerged as the top digital-related priorities for respondents’ organizations this year.

Close behind, at least half of respondents will increase their spending on personalization (51%), video advertising (50%) and lead generation (50%). Personalization has become a top priority for enterprise organizations as they seek to respond to customers’ changing needs, while video advertising is set for annual increases of almost 20%/. As for lead generation, spending increases in this area are likely going to be made with improved lead quality rather than quantity in mind.

There also seems to be an appetite for spending increases on marketing analytics (49%), per the Econsultancy and Adobe report. There seems to be room for improvement on this end in the US, where CMOs estimate making only around one-third of decisions using analytics.

Not too surprisingly given the uptick in digital marketing spending over the past few years, no channel identified was slated for more decreases than increases. In fact, only 3 of the 16 areas measured are planned for a decrease in spend by more than 1 in 10 respondents. Those are:

  • – Paid search – set for a spending decline by 13%, but on the rise for 32%;
  • – Display advertising – slated for a budget drop by 13%, but expected to rise for 34%; and
  • – Webinars / virtual events – with 11% seeing a decline versus 40% projecting an increase.

As one might expect, these were in the lower tier of expected increases, joined by sales enablement and affiliate marketing in the bottom 5.

(Please click to enlarge the above chart for the full set of responses.)

Enterprise CMOs’ Channel Plans

An earlier Gartner study took a look at the spending plans of 377 CMOs in the US (56% share), UK (30% share) and Canada (14% share), 70% of whom come from organizations with at least $1 billion in annual revenue.

The results of that survey indicate that digital advertising has a bright year ahead: a leading 23% of respondents projected a “significant” increase in digital ad spend this year, with another 42% expecting a “slight” increase. All told, then, almost two-thirds expect an increase in digital ad spend, against just 7% decreasing it. (It’s worth noting that digital advertising spend in the US slowed at the end of last year as some large advertisers didn’t see the returns they were expecting. This coincided with some big spenders returning to TV.)

Meanwhile, although social marketing didn’t gain quite as much spending consensus as digital advertising, fully 1 in 5 respondents said they would increase their budgets for social “significantly”. That trailed only digital advertising in terms of “significant” spending hikes, and was still supplemented by another 36% expecting a “slight” increase.

Along with digital advertising and social marketing, CMOs pointed to marketing analytics and digital commerce as areas in which they have high hopes for budget hikes, with mobile marketing, customer intelligence, and content creation & management also in the mix.

As with the Econsultancy and Adobe study, budget outlooks are overall quite buoyant among CMOs, with no single channel seeing a net-negative result. Even offline advertising has far more of a positive (43%) than negative (12%) spending outlook this year.

Of the 14 categories of marketing spending tracked in the Gartner survey, only 4 are slated for decreases in spending by more than 1 in 10 CMOs. Those are:

  • – Websites – 11% decreasing (potentially as spending shifts to mobile apps and social), against 52% increasing;
  • – Email marketing – with 11% cutting budgets but 45% increase them;
  • – Offline advertising – as aforementioned; and
  • – Out-of-home media – with 11% seeing a decline but 37% expecting an increase.

Looking back on their 2016 budgets, CMOs estimated allocating the largest share of their marketing spending on websites (8.6%), digital commerce (8.5%) and digital advertising (8.1%), with marketing analytics (7.8%) and mobile marketing (7.5%) rounding out the top 5. The smallest shares were allocated to content creation and management (5.9%) and out-of-home media (5.2%), which may be a reflection of the composition of the sample.

Overall, some 57% of CMOs expect their marketing expenses in fiscal year 2017 to increase either slightly (44%) or significantly (13%). Although just 14% are projecting a drop in spending, that’s the largest proportion going back at least as far as 2012.

About the Data: The Econsultancy and Adobe survey was carried out online in November and December 2016 among 14,163 marketing, digital and e-commerce professionals, of whom 64% are marketing professionals from the client-side and 36% from the supply-side (including agency marketers, consultants and vendors).

More than one-third (35%) of respondents are from Europe, with 28% from North America, 17% in Asia, 13% from Australia/New Zealand, and 7% from other regions.

Some 34% are B2C-focused, while 30% are B2B-focused and the remaining 36% equally focused on B2B and B2C. The technology (12%) and financial services and insurance (11%) industries were the most heavily represented.

Gartner describes its methodology in part as follows:

“The research was conducted using a mixed methodology of online and CATI from July through August 2016. Of the 377 respondents, 56% were in the U.S., 14% were in Canada and 30% were in the U.K. Seventy percent of the respondents came from organizations with $1 billion or more in annual revenue.

The respondents came from a variety of industries: financial services (65 respondents), high tech (80 respondents), manufacturing (43 respondents), consumer products (47 respondents), media (33 respondents), retail (63 respondents), transportation and hospitality (38 respondents), and other industries (8 respondents).

The survey was developed collaboratively by a team of Gartner analysts who follow marketing and was reviewed, tested and administered by Gartner’s Research Data Analytics team.”


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