Paid search continues to be a dominant channel for digital advertising, commanding 39% of advertisers’ budgets, although the playing field is levelling out, according to Marin Software’s State of Digital Advertising 2019 report.
Paid social claimed the second-largest share of advertisers’ budgets (18%) despite well-documented struggles with data privacy, followed closely by display (16%). 
Marin consulted the views of over 450 B2B and B2C digital marketing professionals in the US and the UK to understand their top priorities, challenges, and opportunities for 2019.  
According to the report, growth remains a top priority for advertisers as well as driving brand awareness as they continue to hit volume targets with paid search, social and accurate attribution in addition to leveraging audience data with e-commerce in a bid to drive more results through digital advertising.

Instagram and Amazon influencing ad spend

As brands increase their ad spend on Instagram, everyone is wondering if this comes at the expense of Facebook ad dollars. According to findings, the majority of respondents (67%) say Instagram spend will come from incremental budget rather than transferring from Facebook.
The last 12 months have been promising for Amazon, with 60% of advertisers planning to increase their ad spend over the next year as 55% see the platform as a significant growth opportunity, whereas one in four are looking to increase purchases at the lower end of the funnel.
Despite Amazon’s growth, the offering is not yet considered as sophisticated as Facebook or Google. 37% of those surveyed said the campaign management tools available on Amazon are not optimal and 23% state the reporting tools are not as established as other channels. 
In addition, 30% of responding advertisers say lack of expertise with Amazon ads is the primary reason why they are not yet using the platform, indicating a skills gap to close.  
Speaking of Google, the published emerged as the most trusted publisher, according to Marin, with an average rate score of 4.5 out of 5. 98% of respondents also rated Google a 4 or 5 on the trust index.

New ad formats

As brands tussle to capture consumer attention, advertisers are turning to new ad formats to break through the digital noise and drive awareness. 

84% of respondents who use paid search are currently using or planning to use Google’s new Responsive Search Ads format. Ad spend on shopping ad formats is also rising fast, with 65% saying their company’s use of Shoppable Images within search will increase in 2019.
Video advertising continues to lead the way in paid social, with 32% of survey respondents reporting that video is the most effective social ad format, followed by image ads (26%), Instagram Stories (23%), and carousel ads (19%).

“This year’s report shows a shift in advertising spend as marketers explore alternative channels and emerging ad formats. The digital advertising landscape continues to evolve, with advertisers struggling to close the skills gap as publishers innovate,” said Wes MacLaggan, SVP of Marketing at Marin Software.
“At Marin, we’re seeing a greater emphasis on video and new ad formats like Responsive Search Ads and Shoppable Images to gain mindshare and drive growth. The e-commerce landscape is a hotbed of innovation, presenting retail brands with many opportunities and some challenges to navigate,” MacLaggan concluded.