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The top global media consumption trends of 2021

The Drum looks at some of the media trends marketers will have to be aware in 2022

As we take a Deep Dive into how the pandemic has sped up the globalization of the marketing industry, The Drum looks at some of the media trends marketers will have to be aware in 2022 no matter where they are in the world.

In the modern era, top marketers are tasked with attracting as many global consumers as possible, enabled by digital technology. But it is first important to understand that there are billions of people without access to the internet and digital devices.

Best estimates from DataReportal claim that 330 million people started using the internet in the 12 months leading to April 2021, bringing us to 4.72 billion internet users. There are an estimated 7.9 billion people in the world – we see that the impressive reach of digital is still not all-encompassing. Much of the future rollout will be down to internet infrastructure and the ability to access devices.

While there are a reported 5.2 billion mobile users, some of these are dumbphones, others are used as personal computers or media viewers. 3.2 billion people still don’t have internet access.

But how much of the internet usage is in social media? Social media software Hootsuite claims the global total of social media users hit 4.2 billion people in 2020, growing by half a billion in a year. You can see how social media swallowed up but half a billion internet users and 80% of mobile users.

Funding the vast internet is digital advertising. Here Facebook and Google still reign supreme in digital advertising, owning a 23.7% and 28.6% share of net ad revenue share in 2021. Behind them, Alibaba, Amazon and Tencent languish with 8.7%, 5.8% and 2.9%. The market is dominated by two companies, with two Chinese giants holding respectable shares. With current conflicts between opposing superpowers, growth across either territory could be tricky. LinkedIn, the last US social network to operate in China shut down last week for example.

One we’re regularly told to watch is Amazon, which has seen unmatched ad growth in recent years.

The prize? A huge kitty gathering from millions of advertisers keen to reach customers across these tech stacks. During its infamous six-hour outage last month, Facebook saw an estimated $79m in lost ad dollars. To put that sum into perspective, Facebook was recently fined £50.5m ($70m) by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which accuses it of deliberately breaking rules during its acquisition of gif-sharing service Giphy. The fine not exactly a deterrent at this scale.

A scary stat for Google perhaps comes from the Hootsuite report claiming that seven in 10 internet users go beyond search engines to find information. Google’s long had a foothold on search, although you’ll see Amazon also saturating your queries with sponsored results too. But this behavioral shift may be down to years of saturating search with ads. Or people are moving to useful new sources, like immersive shopping experiences, voice interfaces and social commerce.

In the UK, AA/Warc reports claimed that digital became 70p of every £1 spent in advertising in 2021. Growth will hit 18.2% in 2021 (up from 15.2% forecast in April) and by 2022 £30bn will be spent on ads.

But it is worth remembering that a huge proportion of the audiences being reached are actually fake. Ad fraud’s an issue the world over but its prevalence differs by region. Advertisers in Asia Pacific saw the lowest overall sophisticated invalid traffic/fraud violation rates at 0.8%, compared to North America (1.5%), EMEA (1.6%) and LATAM (1.1%), according to DoubleVerify’s 2021 Global Insights Report. The biggest decline recorded was in Indonesia by 60% YOY to 0.5%. This compares with North America (1.5%), EMEA (1.6%) and LATAM (1.1%).

It’s not a problem only facing digital advertising, but those cropping up to combat the internet giants. None carry as much buzz as TV. The AA/Warc report theorized that UK TV spend will increase 15.1% in 2021 (almost doubling its 8.8% forecast). And much of this will be addressable and delivered through connected TVs. eMarketer projects that CTV advertising in the US will grow 48.6% year-on-year in 2021, reaching $13.4bn. And it will more than double by 2025.

TV’s suddenly the star of the show – the biggest screen in the house solves the creative crisis we’ve seen on tiny mobile displays and solves the identity crisis we may see from Google’s abandonment of the third-party cookie and other trackers. Although in some markets, mobile will remain many’s primary device to watch content.

But the next generation of TV needs to find its identity among the generation of mobile viewers and cable cutters. A Sky Glass TV will soon roll out across Europe reimagining the Pay TV strategy to appease the streaming generation. Stateside, that’s had the backing of Comcast, which may have similar ambitions.

And what about the stuff we watch on these screens?

You’d have to be living in a cave if you missed the sensation that is Netflix’s Squid Game. It is the SVOD player’s most-watched show with 111m views – although that’s an unaudited metric that is commonly believed to rank a view as any engagement lasting more than two minutes. By any measure, it still makes the South Korean drama the biggest show in Netflix history. It’s clear that language is less of a barrier than we previously thought. German time travel drama Dark, Spain’s Money Heist, France’s Lupin all perform well on the platform. We live in the post-Parasite era.

There’s no doubt that video subscriptions have been accelerated by the pandemic. According to Ofcom, subscriptions to streaming services climbed to 31m in 2020 in the UK, up from 20m in 2019. People spent almost twice as much time watching subscription streaming services. These trends are replicable across many markets. And even if we end up back outdoors once more and hours fall, where we consume media has moved.

But there are more channels fighting for attention, such as social media influencing. But it’s not as lucrative as you may imagine. According to HypeAuditor’s Influencer Income Survey’, on average, influencers earn $2,970 per month from their Instagram account. Micro-influencers (between 1,000-10,000 followers) average $1,420 per month. Those with more than 1 million followers average $15,536 per month. It said that only 4% of respondents live on income from an account. 26% of respondents hope to earn a living from influence in the future. With much of the creator economy is built upon the hope of earning a living, is professionally-made UGC at risk here? Could the bubble burst? And how would that impact the social media giants selling the attention this content creates?

Social media got more useful too. Notable was the rise of augmented reality in the likes of Snap. 75% of Snap’s daily audience interacts with AR and it boasts 265 million active users globally. Snap’s now launched a studio to create AR experiences and that will tie into some of the shoppable features it is implementing to better serve advertisers.

And it’d be impossible to ignore the rise of gaming, a medium we previously committed a full Deep Dive to. It’s not a media channel, argues MediaCom’s Misha Sher who points out that there are around 1,181,019 games available across five major gaming platforms, and audiences are spread fairly evenly and thinly across them at the moment. Most pivotally, only 25% have buyable inventory. There’s work ahead to monetize 2.5 billion gamers, a so-called Sleeping Facebook. And that’ll require a huge shift in how games are bought and sold.

And then there’s the gaming pillar that is esports. Divya Acharya, the head of solutions and innovation strategy for Xaxis in Asia Pacific, says between 30% to 40% of the population in South East Asia watch streamed esports events. This leaves every other continent in the dust – simply put, it’s already mainstream across much of the continent.

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