Digital advertisers shift sharply from sports and travel to news, hobbies

New PubMatic data shows dramatic shifts in category spending by global digital advertisers in the first two weeks of March.

Sell-side advertising platform PubMatic says its digital adspend figures show total global spend declined slightly from the beginning of March to mid-March as many of the world’s largest economies reacted to the COVID-19 threat.

More interestingly, it has released new infographics showing the category shifts advertisers have been making from the beginning of the month (March 1) to the middle of it (March 18).  

Not surprisingly news providers received the greatest uptick in advertising spend, up 52% from March 1 to March 18 as online audiences try to keep themselves informed of the latest coronavirus developments. But while the trend might be seen as a boon to news publishers, not all are choosing to monetise their COVID-19 content. Instead, some like BBC Global News have taken the step of setting aside up to 20% of ad space to accommodate free public service announcements.

The other top gaining category is hobbies and interests (31%) as limits on daily activities free up more time for people to return to personal pastimes. This was followed by technology and computing (14%) and education (13%).


The categories advertisers are shifting away from are hardly surprising either, but the data gives a sense of the magnitude of the trends. Travel ad spending has been cut by two-thirds, while digital advertising in sports has fallen 40%.   

Counterintuitively, science (down 26%) and family and parenting (down 24%) were the next hardest hit categories, trailing others like fashion.  The data is pulled from PubMatic's data analytics team, which monitors 13 trillion global advertiser bids every month. 


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