Updated September 2020
Did you know 2020 was a momentous year for digital advertising? We’re talking BOGO at Yankee Candle big.
For the first time in history, the Internet accounted for half of all ad spending worldwide. Pretty impressive, huh? Looks like this Internet thing is really starting to catch on. That’s thanks to an increase in global digital ad spend by 17.6% to a whopping $333.25 billion.
So, yeah, for the most part 2020 was a pretty awful year. Pandemics. Riots. Recessions. Wildfires. Tornadoes. Fire tornadoes. Murder hornets. Tiger Kings. It was awful in a lot of ways for a lot of people.
But it was fantastic in one regard. Digital advertising growth. And there is no sign of this growth stopping anytime soon.
So where’s all that digital ad spend going?
Where are brands allocating their online marketing budgets? Which sites are reaping the most profits? Which sites stand out above all the rest?
You know, the types of questions that keep you up at night.
We analyzed data from Pathmatics Explorer to reveal the three of the most popular websites for digital advertising right now.
Here’s what we found.
Video is king. Especially in the realm of digital advertising.
As of writing, over the past 12 months, brands across all industries spent more than $6 billion collectively to advertise on YouTube. (That’s up almost 50% from just three years prior!) This spend earned over 500 billion impressions.
Apple is currently the video streaming site’s leading advertiser by far, with Disney and Hulu coming in second and third, respectively.
In nearly every industry, YouTube was the most popular site to advertise on. This includes four of the top five current highest ad spending industries — Financial Services, Media, Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG), and Pharma & Healthcare. (The lone exception being Retail, which we’ll touch on in a moment.)
Though really, none of this should come as a shock considering YouTube is the second most visited website in the world (right behind Google) and studies have shown 90% of shoppers discover a brand or product through the platform.
The second most popular website to advertise on right now is Yahoo.
A vast majority of industries, including Financial Services, CPG, Food & Drink, B2B, and Auto, all chose the online service provider as their second choice for digital advertising. And for most every other industry Yahoo sits in the top three. The result was a collective $2.2 billion ad spend garnering over 510 billion impressions in the past 12 months on Yahoo.
So while, in total, nearly 3x more was spent on YouTube ads, the ads on Yahoo actually resulted in more impressions overall. That’s what we call interesting.
Speaking of interesting things, a majority of spend on Yahoo comes from indirect advertising (while nearly all comes from direct on YouTube).
Who knew Yahoo was so popular? 700 million monthly users, that’s who.
Who had Hulu on their ad spend bingo card? Nailed it!
As we saw with YouTube, people like watching videos. Advertisers like to advertise where people are. You do the math.
Sure, Hulu comes in a far third compared to YouTube and Yahoo. But the video-on-demand streaming service (owned by Disney) has still seen nearly $400 million in ad spend over the past 12 months. Not too shabby.
And if Hulu isn't ranking in the third spot (as it does for Auto and Food & Drink, to name a few industries), then it’s in the top 5 for many others (like CPG, which has a particularly strong affinity for video right now.) The Dating industry even has Hulu as its top choice, spending more on it than YouTube for ads.
Though of all industries, Auto is crushing the hardest on Hulu, spending over $43 million on the platform. This is largely in part thanks to Carvana and Geico topping the list of Hulu advertisers, spending $15 million and $9 million, respectively.
So why are businesses advertising on Hulu over other sites?
It probably has a lot to do with the fact that 70% of viewers are on Hulu’s ad-supported plan (That comes out to roughly 58 million people). Also, have we mentioned video is king?
Honorable Mention: Amazon
You might have come into this article thinking Amazon would be one of the three most popular sites to advertise on.
And you would have been right…. if this were 2016.
Amazon was actually the most popular site that year. It’s drop just goes to show the rising dominance of video.
But don’t get down on the world’s most popular eCommerce site quite yet. While it didn’t make this list’s cut, it is worth noting that Amazon is the top channel for the Retail industry when it comes to digital ad spend. (Go figure.)
In fact, ads on Amazon have actually garnered quite a bit more impressions than ads on Hulu (71 billion vs. 14 billion). But Amazon’s overall ad spend across all industries was considerably lower at $173 million, which is why it’s currently an honorable mention.
We get it, Internet. Video is king….for now.
With over a decade of experience across digital marketing, content, creative, and PR, Sarah is a creative and dynamic thinker who loves to delight clients with unique and relatable content. Sarah graduated from UC Berkeley with a BA in Sociology.