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Global Digital Advertising Spend by Industry in 2021

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, digital marketing spending in 2021 significantly shrank, shifted companies’ marketing priorities, and led to new job openings. Our previous report highlights all the changes in digital ad spend caused by COVID-19. At Improvado, we always stay on top of marketing trends to understand how we can provide value to our customers. That’s why we’ve compiled a comprehensive report on advertising spend by industry in 2021. Let’s explore new insights together.


At Improvado, we are closely linked to digital marketing processes across all industries. Since our workflow is focused on data, our data analysts processed volumes of it to make a thorough analysis of global advertising spend in the current market. We’ve analyzed marketing spendings across 30,000 US-based companies, 42,000 British companies, and 45,000 companies that are members of  the European Union. Our data is broken down by 67 industries, so we can deliver insightful information on every niche.

Share of digital advertising spend by industry

Since digital marketing spend gradually decreased in 2021, global paid search ads also experienced a decline of 8.5%. The majority of industries are reducing their marketing expenses due to improvement of the global situation, the retreat of the pandemic, and stabilization of consumer spending. 

This chart represents changes in trends in Q2 2021 compared to  Q3 2020-Q2 2021:

Ad spend trends in 2021

The five  main industries that contribute the most to global digital ad spendings are:

  • Insurance
  • Online media
  • Internet providers
  • Computer games
  • Legal services

Man contributors to paid search ads spend in 2021

Still, some industries have only increased their ad spending since the beginning of COVID-19. Some of the industries that invested the most into digital advertising in April-July 2021 are:

Insurance digital ad spend

With an average spend of $99,930 per month per company, insurance companies have been growing their digital ad spending since the beginning of the outbreak. In Q2 2021, the industry experienced 7.01% growth compared to January-March 2021.

Insurance paid search in 2021

Online media digital ad spend

Despite being one of the biggest spenders for digital advertising, online media’s investments in paid search steadily declined. With $66,625 per month per company in April-June 2021, online media decreased its expenses by 31.11% compared to Q1 2021. 

Online media digital ad spend in 2021

Internet providers digital ad spend

Internet service providers are slowly recovering from the COVID-19 impact, as their budgets for paid search ads have increased With an average investment of $45,225 per month per company, internet service providers increased advertising financing by 2,48% in Q2 2021 compared to the previous reporting period.

Internet providers digital ad spend

Computer games digital ad spend

Due to the specificity of their industry, computer game publishers actively utilize paid search ads. A total of $36,839 per month per company makes this industry one of the main contributors to global advertising spend. However, due to the industry stagnation, advertisers are steadily cutting their Google Ad budgets. During Q2 2021 this industry experienced a slight decrease of 0.98% in digital ads spending. Although, back in July-September 2020, budgets were around $49,708, which is 35% more than in the Q2 2021.

Computer games digital ad spend

Legal services digital ad spend

The last industry on our list with $34,611 spendings on paid search is legal services. Google Ads budgets continuously diminished with a decline of 8.46% in April-June 2021 compared to January-March 2021.

Legal services digital ad spend

Here is a quick overview of other trending industries and how they manage their paid search spend.

Pharmaceutical digital ad spend

The pharmaceutical industry reached its peak of digital advertising spending in October-December 2020 with around $1,533 per month per company. That’s quite a low budget considering recent events and the overall size of the industry. In Q2 2021, financing became even lower, reaching only $1,262 with an 8.35% decrease in comparison to Q1 2021.

Pharmaceutical digital ad spend

Automotive digital ad spend

Huge automotive companies utilize all marketing channels to promote their products. When the pandemic hit, the average automotive advertising spend in 2020 was around $33,264 per month. Right now, with the increase in demand for autos and increased effectiveness of conventional marketing, automotive corporations are slowly pulling away from Google Ads towards other marketing channels. In the first quarter of 2021, companies’ spending in this niche was $29,237 per month -- a decrease of 2.52% compared to the previous quarter.

Automotive digital ad spend

Educational digital ad spend

As seen from our data, higher education is steadily catching up with e-learning. Since July-September 2020, paid search ads spend in e-learning remains at the same level with slight fluctuations. According to the report by Coursera, the company faced 59 million enrollments in 2020 with a 249% YoY growth. 

On the other hand, due to the global panic and remote learning, higher educational establishments significantly increased marketing investments in 2020 to attract new students.

This trend held steady until April-June 2021. Now, the average higher education establishment invests $19,086 per month globally. Even though universities reduced marketing expenses by 28.56%, they still invest 86.75% more than e-learning platforms. This trend shows us that conventional education is returning to normal, but it still has to make strides in order to compete with e-learning.

Educational digital ad spend

According to our research, we see that companies from various industries tend to reallocate their spendings from search ads to other marketing channels. Obviously, the main reason is the stabilization of the overall situation. Outdoor advertising brings more advantages as lockdown restrictions are slowly easing and the global economy is incrementally recovering as consumers now spend more. We can assume  that this trajectory will continue over time.

Global advertising spend by country

The next section of our report focuses on digital ads spending across different regions. We’ve gathered and compared statistics for three main regions:

  • United States
  • United Kingdom
  • European Union
Global advertising spend by country

Let’s find out what differentiates these three regions and how they prioritize their spendings.

The United States

During the research, we’ve managed to identify several characteristics for the US. The average share of investments on paid search ads across all industries is around $6,738. Since the beginning of the pandemic, US companies have invested around five times more than the EU and UK in digital ads for arts and crafts. With $16,376 per month per company of spendings in the US during April-June 2021, their budgets are eight times more than the UK ($2,033) and the EU ($3,069).

Paid search ads spend in The United States in 2021

The COVID-19 spared US-based automotive manufacturers

Additionally, as the world’s second-largest auto manufacturer, the United States makes significant investments in automotive digital advertising. The US spends $40,605 per month per company and that’s more than 30 times more in this niche than the UK,with $1,247 per month.  The EU spends $15,975 per month -- falling behind the US by close to 40%.

Automotive paid search ads spend during COVID-19

US higher educational establishments are shrinking paid advertising budgets

Higher education in the US also invests heavily in digital marketing. In Q2 2021, the average paid search spend was $21,228 per month versus $1,247 in the UK and $1,535 in the EU. However, the spending tendency will gradually slow down as the students get back to on-site studies and the pandemic settles down. Higher education establishments are predicted to experience growth in new students and scale marketing budgets back.

global ad spend in US higher educational establishments

American online media invests gigantic sums in paid search

Extreme differences can be seen in online media ad spending. On average, US-based companies spend $109,800 per month on search ads. A staggering sum compared to only $2,500 in both the UK and EU. 

US banks focus on attracting new audience

The final industry on this list for the US is financial services. US financial companies allocate $13,800 per month on average on paid search spend. In contrast, UK-based companies spend only $2,675 per month while EU companies spend $3,295 per month. 

Paid search ads spend in financial services in 2021

United Kingdom

In the UK, companies also have specific industries that get more digital ad financing than others. For example, an average computer hardware company spends $22,000 per month on Google Search Ads. That’s almost 16 times more than their competitors from the EU with $1,328 per month and six times more than similar companies in the US with $3,969. However, Google Ad budgets in the computer hardware niche have been shrinking over time. In Q2 2021, marketing budgets in this industry declined by 28.52%. This may be caused by insufficient production capacities of leading manufacturers and strong demand for graphic chips among crypto enthusiasts. 

Contributors to the global ad spend in The UK in 2021

British people tend to change their residences less frequently

This trend is similar in the real estate industry. British real estate agencies utilize paid search ads at their full capacity. An impressive $49,000 per month against $1,462 in the EU and $3,587 in the US make the United Kingdom an unconditional leader.

Changes in paid search ads financing of UK real estate agencies

COVID-19 made British people drink less

An interesting fact is that COVID-19 forced British people to drink less. At least we can come to this conclusion based on the paid search ad spends in the wine and spirits industry. During the pandemic, Google Ads budgets increased to $21,102 in Q2 2021. In other regions, the budgets were much more modest with $2,854 in the EU and $4,026 in the US

Global share of paid search ads spend during COVID-19 in UK

British machinery is looking for new clients

British machinery also experienced a large spurt in paid search spend during COVID-19. An average machinery enterprise in the UK spent $15,073 per month to attract new customers via Google. In comparison, rivals from the US spent $3,707 monthly while companies from the EU even less -- $1,280 per month.

British machinery paid search ads spend in 2021

European Union

Apart from other regions from our list, the EU doesn’t invest much in paid search ads. Still, there are several industries where companies try to grow their outreach. One of them is the apparel and fashion industry. With $14,136 per month per company, the EU has become the main fashion hub in the world. Companies from the US spend $3,916 monthly, while the UK spends only $2,937.

Top 10 contributors to paid search ads spend in the EU

The European Union is trying to revive the tourism industry

Meanwhile, the European Union is trying to revive its leisure, tourism, and travel industries. These three niches get a big chunk of the global advertising spend in the EU. Companies spent $43,600 during Q2 2021. Companies from the US spent $16,338, while the British traveling companies invested only $4,557 monthly in search ads. Still, the comparison might be irrelevant, because the EU includes many countries that, to varying degrees, are trying to stimulate traveling across the EU through joint efforts. 

UK aid search adds budgets n leisure and travel

Our thoughts on the situation

Having analyzed the information across all industries and regions, we feel safe to say that marketing budgets are steadily declining. The decline of 8.5% of the global digital ad spends clearly emphasizes this trend. There are numerous reasons for this to happen, ranging from the appearance of the vaccine and return to our recent lifestyle to a decrease in companies’ revenue. It’s become clear that companies have to adapt to the new reality, work on new marketing strategies to attract customers, and stay on top of marketing trends.

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We’re making this report evergreen, keeping in mind that you need to always stay on top of upcoming challenges and trends. It will be updated each quarter with brand new information across all industries and countries. Sign up for updates to get exclusive new insights to keep you one step ahead of the competition.

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