Landmark Shift: Social Media Overtakes Paid Search in Ad Spend

Social media advertising has become the world’s leading channel for ad spends. In a landmark shift, it surpassed paid search in 2023 and is expected to reach $247.3 billion in 2024.

Social media has undergone a meteoric rise, not just in popularity, but in its financial clout.  It has officially dethroned paid search as the largest advertising channel globally, with a projected $247.3 billion spent in 2024, a staggering 14.3% year-on-year increase.

This dominance reflects a fundamental shift in consumer behaviour. 

According to WARC Media’s ‘Global Advertising Trends’ report, daily engagement with social platforms has skyrocketed by 50% in the last decade, with users now dedicating an average of 152 minutes per day. further bolsters this point, reporting a phenomenal 169% growth in global social media users since 2014.

“Meta’s remarkable resurgence has undoubtedly fueled social media’s success," explains Alex Brownsell, Head of Content at Warc Media. However, the trend extends beyond a single platform. TikTok’s meteoric rise, coupled with ad revenue growth for Snapchat and Pinterest, paints a clear picture: social media is where marketing budgets are.

But the landmark global shift doesn’t come without its challenges. 

Marketers face major concerns about increasing ad saturation within social environments and the evolving role of AI in media planning. Despite these hurdles, Warc Media’s report, aptly titled “Social Media Reaches New Peaks,” emphasises the industry’s unwavering momentum. 

While growth may decelerate slightly from 16% in 2023 to 14.3% in 2024, social media’s trajectory remains firmly upward. 

Furthermore, the report highlights a particularly interesting trend: Western social media platforms are experiencing the fastest spending growth, fueled by an influx of Chinese brands targeting US and European audiences.

Meta Poised to Topple TV as Ad King in 2025

Meta is on track to surpass traditional linear TV in ad revenue by 2025. 

This prediction comes amidst a surge in user engagement with platforms like Facebook and Instagram, with the average Reels session now bombarded with seven or more ads.

This dramatic rise isn’t accidental. Meta’s impressive growth can be attributed to several factors. Both Facebook and Instagram experienced impressive year-on-year growth exceeding 20% in the first quarter of 2024 alone. Additionally, Meta is projected to rake in a staggering $155.6 billion in ad revenue this year, capturing a whopping 63% share of all global social media ad spend. 

This dominance is fueled by two key trends:

  • A surge in investment from Chinese exporters: Chinese brands are increasingly targeting US and European audiences, leading to a significant boost in ad dollars flowing into Meta’s platforms.
  • The popularity of AI advertising tools: Tools like Meta Advantage+, which automate aspects of campaign creation and media planning, are becoming a hit with advertisers due to their efficiency. However, some brands express concerns about a potential “double-edged sword” effect.

The future of advertising seems to be firmly planted in the social media landscape. Whether Meta maintains its lead or other platforms rise to the challenge remains to be seen. But one thing is clear: Traditional TV advertising is facing a significant threat from the ever-evolving world of social media.

Major Shake Up in Social Media Ads: Is TikTok’s Reign Over?

TikTok is popular among the masses, but its growth trajectory is not moving quite as fast as it used to.

Warc Media predicts its ad revenue will reach $23.1 billion in 2024, reflecting an 18.3% year-on-year increase. This, however, marks a significant slowdown compared to the explosive 87.8% growth witnessed in 2023, despite the introduction of new search and shopping ad formats.

This slowdown could signal a potential turning point in the social media advertising landscape. With a potential ban looming in the US, advertisers may be starting to diversify their investments. This could benefit platforms like Pinterest and Snapchat, both of which are projected for a resurgence in 2024.

  • Pinterest’s Power Play: Pinterest is poised for a strong year, with a predicted ad revenue increase of 17.3%. This resurgence is likely due to a renewed focus on its visual discovery. By catering to users’ desire for inspiration and product exploration, Pinterest is carving out a valuable niche in the social media space.
  • Snapchat’s Snap Back: Snapchat is also projected to experience a 13.7% ad revenue rise in 2024. This rebound can be attributed to the platform’s success in doubling down on ephemeral messaging and augmented reality filters. By capitalising on its unique user engagement and strong Gen Z presence, Snapchat is attracting increased advertiser interest.
  • Twitter/X’s Continued Struggles: Twitter/X’s ad revenue woes are expected to persist in 2024. Warc Media forecasts a global decline of 6.4% and a 5.1% drop in the US. While this represents a slight stabilisation compared to the staggering 46.4% decrease in 2023, the platform remains under significant pressure.

The slowdown can be attributed to ongoing concerns around brand safety and the platform’s well-publicised issues with bots. 

Advertisers remain wary of associating their brands with a platform struggling with user trust and transparency. Political ad spend may be offering some temporary relief, but long-term success hinges on addressing these core issues.

This shift in the social media advertising landscape highlights the dynamic nature of the industry. Social media platforms that can effectively cater to specific user needs and navigate the evolving concerns of advertisers are likely to thrive in the years to come.

Future of Ads: One Platform for All Your Social Media Needs 

Social media platforms are experiencing a surge in ad density, with Facebook parent company Meta reportedly reaching a 19.1% ad load in Q4 2023. This translates to an average of seven or more ads interrupting Reels sessions, a format heavily inspired by TikTok’s short-form videos. 

New search and shopping ad options are emerging as platforms strive for “efficiency” in extracting revenue. The lines are blurring. As TikTok prepares to launch Notes, a photo-sharing app, Meta is ramping up investment in AI-powered search tools. 

Social media platforms are increasingly resembling one another in terms of both the advertising formats they provide and the commerce features they integrate.

Need a fresh perspective? Let’s talk.

At 360 OM, we specialise in helping businesses take their marketing efforts to the next level. Our team stays on top of industry trends, uses data-informed decisions to maximise your ROI, and provides full transparency through comprehensive reports.

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