Who got 2019’s marketing predictions right – and absolutely wrong?


By Samuel Scott, The Promotion Fix columnist

December 10, 2019 | 13 min read

“Am I too cynical about ‘predictions for 2019’ posts? More than a few seem to conflate a company's own hopes/goals with prognostications about what the market will do independent of them. Is it snarky to ask, ‘How did your predictions for 2018 work out?’”

2019 predictions

So tweeted Scott Brinker – HubSpot’s platform ecosystem vice president and the editor of the Chief Marketing Technologist blog – in late 2018, a few months before David ‘Shingy’ Shing left his ‘digital prophet’ role at Verizon Media.

As far as we know, no one else has hired Shingy for a similar job. The news may have placed a dark cloud over the predictions industry. After all, what if those forecasts are largely useless? I cannot help but wonder if Shingy’s departure this year will herald the arrival of more common sense in the marketing industry.

No, it is not snarky to question predictions. It is a very valuable thing to do. After all, countless companies pay countless money to know what will happen in the future.

During the same month as Brinker’s tweet, I evaluated and rated the prior marketing predictions for 2018 from the top analyst firms and marketing software companies: Deloitte, Forrester, Gartner, Gartner L2’s Scott Galloway, HubSpot and Salesforce. (Who won? Read the prior column to find out.)

This year, I did something similar. I had collected all the 2019 marketing predictions that I had seen since the end of 2018. For this final column of the year before the holidays, I did the same type of review. To be fair, I focused on other organisations this time: GroupM, Kantar, MoffettNathanson Research and the World Federation of Advertisers.

Before my evaluation, some notes. If I could not find good, independent information on a given issue, I cut the prediction and neither credited nor penalised the company. And, of course, not all data from 2019 has been reported yet.

Now, in alphabetical order, here are this year’s contenders.


WPP’s media investment group unveiled its first 2019 UK forecast in November 2018.

Total advertising spend will increase 4.8% to £20.9bn in 2019. Digital advertising spend will grow 8.6% to £12.8bn. TV advertising spend in the country will grow 1% to £4.36bn. OOH will grow 2.7% to £964m. Advertising in national print publications will fall 9.4% to £764m. Radio spots will grow 7% to £535m. Cinema advertising will grow 1% to £187m.

GroupM then updated its 2019 UK forecast last week.

Total advertising spend will increase 7.8% to £22.2bn. Digital advertising spend will grow 14.9% to £14bn. TV advertising spend will fall 2.3% to £4.4bn. OOH will grow 7.7% to £1bn. Advertising in national print publications will fall 7% to £767m. Radio spots will grow 0.2% to £569m. Cinema advertising will grow 9% to £202m.

So, what should we make of this? I created a chart summarising the differences between the initial and later projections of 2019 spend.

GroupM 2019 projections

How significant are the sometimes large differences between the initial and updated forecasts? Remember: even one percentage point can mean a difference of millions of pounds. Early numbers that turn out to be wrong can influence marketers to set the wrong budget priorities.

Total score: None. I invite readers to ask themselves if the differences between the projected and revised 2019 results are significant.

Just remember that such numbers reveal channel spend but not tactical spend. Most online advertising is actually not advertising but direct response, and there needs to be – on average –​ a 60/40 investment split between the two tactical plans.


Kantar unveiled its 2019 predictions here.

Voice technology will break through in creative planning and the marketing mix.

Nope. I will repeat that marketers allocated only 2% of their media budgets to voice this year. Score: 0/1.

Chinese leadership in social media and social media analytics will be ‘fast-followed’ by the west.

Following its launch outside China more than two years ago, TikTok has now gained nearly 1.5 billion users. The mobile application is especially popular with Generation Z. Meanwhile, western countries are increasingly worried about whether TikTok is or had been collecting personal information and sending it to China. Score: 1/1.

Brands will start to take the portrayal of women in advertising seriously.

On paper but not in reality. Whenever companies produce pro-woman commercials for International Women’s Day, for example, they are almost always being hypocritical. Score: 0.5/1.

Amazon will emerge from the advertising world ‘shadows’ to make the duopoly a triopoly.

Yes, but that already happened in 2018. Score: 0.75/1.

Vertical video will lead the way in creativity.

Mobile advertising platform Mediabrix found that vertical videos almost always have a higher completion rate than horizontal ones. Snap’s media kit for advertisers features only vertical ads. But let’s not forget that everything viewed on television, cinema and YouTube – the vast majority of marcom – is still horizontal. Score: 0.5/1.

The big screen will make a comeback, bigger and better than before.

In the US, cinema’s domestic revenue has remained flat for the past decade, earning between $10-$12bn every year. But cinema advertising continues to grow. GroupM above found an increase of 9% in the UK this year. Zenith predicts annual global increases of 12% due to the Chinese market.

Score: 1/1. But just remember that cinema is still a very small piece of the total advertising spend pie.

Influencer marketing strategies will pivot to prioritise credibility ahead of reach.

True. Marketers are looking less at the number of “likes” and more at the quality of comments on posts and the use of unique URLs and discount codes. Score: 1/1.

Total score: 4.75/7 (68%). Not terrible, but not good, either.

MoffettNathanson Research

The company’s 2019 US forecast was reported here in September 2018.

Overall advertising will grow 5%. Total TV advertising will drop 4.3%. Digital advertising will increase 18%. Both newspaper and magazine advertising will fall 7%. Radio advertising will decline 1%. Outdoor will rise 2%.

Almost halfway through this year, MoffettNathanson updated its prediction.

Overall advertising will grow 5.8%. Total TV advertising will drop 4.7%. Digital advertising will increase 21.5%. Newspaper will fall 8%. Magazine will drop 15.9%. Radio advertising will decline 2%. Outdoor will rise 3%.

A summary of these projections.

Sam Scott predictions

Total score: None. I again encourage readers to ask themselves if the differences are significant.

The World Federation of Advertisers

The WFA shared its 2019 predictions here and here.

The industry will address ageism: “Our industry is seeking what Coty’s Ukonwa Ojo described as ‘diversity in front of the camera as well as behind it’. With ageing populations, this seems to us to be an area which needs prioritising.”

Advertisers focusing on the people with all the money – Generation X and the Baby Boomers – rather than cash-strapped millennials and Generation Z? OK Boomer. That would be too smart. And according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 53% of advertising employees were aged 25 to 44 in 2018 compared to 44% of workers in all industries. Score: Wishful thinking in front of the camera and behind it. 0/1.

Procurement grows up: “A growing number of sourcing colleagues see their future in adding value beyond savings. Not just as a business partner with shared objectives, but as a source for growth within their organisations. As one member in a recent WFA meeting in the US shared ‘we can no longer cut our way to growth’.”

According to the 2019 Procurement Insight Report by Levvel Research, procurement functions have indeed “shifted from basic supply management and overseeing transactional activity to more holistic and expansive participation within the business”. Score: 1/1.

Growing disillusionment: “Maybe marketers will become more sceptical of the rewards and risks of the shiny and new, particularly in the so-called breakthrough areas of blockchain, voice and influencer marketing.”

Blockchain may help to combat ad fraud, and the proportion of respondents in Deloitte's 2019 Global Blockchain Survey who see blockchain as a top-five strategic priority jumped from 43% in 2018 to 53% in 2019. Although influencer marketing spend has grown 83%, 96% of people in the UK do not trust what influencers say.

However, marketers did reportedly allocate only 2% of their media budgets to voice this year. Score: Blockchain is not hype, voice might be hype and influencers are a mixed bag that must be approached carefully. 1/2 – influencer marketing is a wash.

GDPR goes global: “The theme of privacy, especially when it comes to digital marketing, is likely to remain at the forefront of most marketers’ minds in 2019 as other countries around the world look to GDPR as a blueprint for their own regulatory changes.”

GDPR is indeed inspiring regulations from Brazil to California to Canada to Japan to South Africa. Score: 1/1.

Advertising sobers up: “We will continue to see increasingly restrictive legislation at national level… this will mean regulators will consider further restrictions to alcohol marketing unless brands can show they are consistent in their commitments to advertise responsibly.”

Correct. Just see Cambodia, Ireland, New York and South Korea. Score: 1/1.

Food gets tobacco-like labels: “Chile has adopted tobacco-style labelling and marketing restrictions for foods high in salt, sugar and fat.. Peru, Uruguay, Guatemala and others are following suit, and now Canada threatens to be a springboard to take the Latin American approach to the rest of the world.”

Ditto. See Australia, Chile, Mexico and South Africa. Score: 1/1.

COPPA compliance: “Regulators and ad standards bodies are noticing more and more inappropriate ads around child directed content… brands cannot be seen to fund social media platforms that don’t put child protection first. Facebook and Google can no longer turn a blind eye.”

YouTube (which is owned by Google) paid $170 million to settle claims that the company violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act in the US. Senators are investigating whether Facebook’s Messenger Kids application violated that law by letting children enter group chats with unapproved strangers. Score: 2/2.

Total score: 7/9 (78%). Good – the winner this year, in fact.

What will 2020 hold?

In January, The Drum will host its annual marketing predictions breakfast for 2020. I might just include the presenters in next year’s scorecard column – especially if Shingy, by chance, will be one of them.

The Promotion Fix will return in January 2020.

The Promotion Fix is an exclusive biweekly column for The Drum contributed by global keynote marketing speaker Samuel Scott, a former journalist, newspaper editor and director of marketing in the high-tech industry. Follow him on Twitter. Scott is based out of Tel Aviv, Israel.


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