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The (Un)Usual Suspects: Black Friday 2021

December 30 2021 by Matthew Bozin
Red background with Black Friday gift box and gift tag
Red background with Black Friday gift box and gift tag

With the arrival of the holidays, shoppers were looking to physically go inside stores again due to global supply chain issues delaying eCommerce deliveries and making them unpredictable. As the first major “post-lockdown” sale season since the beginning of the pandemic, all eyes were on retailers for Black Friday 2021, and the results are in. The data shows that despite the global supply chain crisis, retailers have once again picked up the spending on Black Friday ads to get customers shopping.

When we look at retail, 2020 saw a significant boom in spending with a 47% increase. 2021 continued that boom with an additional 10% increase. For Black Friday, November 2021’s spending was 41% more than the spending in November 2019—indicating that brands are ready for the holiday rush. This year, we’ve seen familiar companies like Walmart and Best Buy place amongst the top spenders, along with some new faces. In this blog, we’ll run through the top five spenders for Black Friday 2021 and look at how each company set up its digital ads to cut through the noise for deal-hungry shoppers.

Walmart

As one of America’s most iconic retailers, Walmart is known for its low prices and frequent deals. The retailer is a consistent Black Friday spender and comes in first place for 2021, having invested over $6M. In 2019 the company was the 10th biggest spender on Black Friday with under a million dollars and the third biggest spender in 2020 with almost $2M, meaning the brand is steadily growing its investment in Black Friday.
As we’ve previously seen, Walmart’s strategy was focused on the brand’s “Deals for Days'' event, which delivered massive savings on a variety of popular items throughout November, ahead of Black Friday.
The top creative for the company was a digital display ad announcing the deals, which equated to $497K of its spending.

Walmart Black Friday Early Access ad

 

Anova Culinary

In an interesting surprise, leading cookware appliance manufacturer Anova Culinary, with its marquee line of Precision Cookers and Ovens, is a new face on the Top 10 spender list. The company spent almost $2.7M on its Black Friday digital advertising for 2021, claiming the number two spot. 

The company’s creatives lauded the Precision Oven’s combination cooking capabilities and its popularity with “food nerds.” For at-home chefs hungry for a deal, the brand’s creatives offered 15% off on cooking appliances and 20% on various sous vide accessories. The majority of the brands’ advertising was on Facebook and the most expensive Black Friday creative was on the platform worth almost $2.6M.

Anova Oven Black Friday deal Facebook adAnova early Black Friday container advertisement

 

Sweetwater Sound

Another fresh face on the list, Sweetwater Sound, spent almost $1.2M dollars on its Black Friday digital advertising, coming in at number three. The online musical instrument and equipment retailer took a similar approach to Walmart and implemented its Black Friday sales earlier in the month than many brands do. 

Also similar to Anova, Sweetwater spent the majority of its digital advertising on Facebook ads, and the most expensive Black Friday creative ($691K) was a Facebook ad encouraging shoppers to get its musical gear at almost 70% off ahead of Black Friday.

Sweetwater musical instrument advertisementsSweetwater 70 percent deal Facebook ad

 

Best Buy

America’s most beloved electronics retailer, Best Buy, comes in as the fourth top spender with almost $1.1M. Known for its legendary pre-Black Friday line-up campers, the retailer is a top-of-the-list mainstay, with almost #3.1M in 2020, and $1.7M in 2019.

No stranger to the holiday sale season game, Best Buy also had early Black Friday deals on hundreds of products and highlighted them in its digital ads. Best Buy is the most video-heavy advertiser on this list with a majority of its ads showcasing the different products available. While some of the products shown were Beats earbuds and Xbox controllers, a big focus of the ads highlighted home appliances such as Samsung, KitchenAid and GE wares. The company’s most expensive ad was a desktop video promoting 10% off Samsung appliances, which was worth $602K.

Best Buy 10 percent off on Samsung advertisement

Best Buy Black Friday website adBest Buy Kitchen Aid Instagram ad

 

The Wall Street Journal

Interestingly, one of America’s most revered business and financial newspapers, the Wall Street Journal, rounded out the top five spenders for 2021. The outlet did not make the cut the previous two years, but this year they came in at $998K, signifying a renewed interest in the physical and digital journalism space.

In a time when credible reports and facts are more important than ever, the Wall Street Journal heavily promoted a limited sale on its subscriptions for Black Friday, from around $39 a month, a limited offer cut the price for a subscription down to just $4 a month. The most expensive creative in a series of ads was on Facebook (ironically a platform where a lot of misinformation is shared) at almost $567K.

Wall Street Journal limited time subscription offer adWall Street Journal exclusive offer advertisement

 

As we’ve seen with the top five spenders, Facebook and Instagram seem to be the best places for big and small brands looking to get their digital ads in front of shoppers. From 2020 to 2021, there was a 14% uptick in Facebook holiday spend, and Instagram doubled its holiday-themed ad dollars. But what comes up, must come down. As the world navigates into 2022, could a retail downturn for social media be on the horizon? We’ll be back to see what happens during Black Friday 2022.

Want to learn about the top advertisers and categories in holiday shopping? Download our Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2021 Report here.

About Author
Matthew Bozin

After earning his BS in Communications, Matt cut his teeth in the entertainment industry, spending fifteen years writing everything from feature screenplays for A-List directors, to celebrity bios for some of Hollywood’s top actors. That creative drive made it an easy transition to Marketing, bringing his eye for storytelling to the digital advertising ecosystem.

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