Trends in digital advertising show a rise in Google responsive search ads (RSAs) and a prioritization of brand awareness, according to the 2019 “State of Digital Advertising” released by Marin Software. Leveraging Amazon audience data and understanding the advertising techniques on the platform are believed to be the most challenging obstacles for advertisers this year.

Digital advertisers say increasing brand awareness is their marketing priority for this year, according to the 2019 “State of Digital Advertising” released by Marin Software, an online advertising company. Marin surveyed 460 digital marketers between May and June 2019. The report details the main priorities digital advertisers are focusing on this year, as well as the biggest challenges, trends and the future of advertising on Inc.

Prioritization of brand awareness

Marketers in the 2019 have more of an even split between top priorities. In Marin’s 2018 report on digital advertising, social media tactics was the top marketing priority, at 38%, compared with only 19% of this year’s respondents. This year, the top priority was increasing brand awareness, with only 25% of respondents indicating this. Last year’s data indicated that 22% of digital advertisers were prioritizing brand awareness.

“We’ve seen pretty substantial headwinds for Facebook (both in terms of privacy concerns and lower growth), which has put a damper on social ad spend,” says Wes MacLaggan, senior vice president of marketing at Marin Software. “But this is somewhat mitigated by the rise in Instagram ad spend and the dramatic increase in adoption of the stories ad format.”

Other top priorities include:

  • Enhancing the customer experience – 22%
  • Embracing omnichannels – 20%
  • Delivering personalization – 20%
  • Embracing social media -19%
  • Optimizing paid search -19%
  • Campaign management – 19%

(Percentages don’t add up to 100% as respondents were allowed to select more than one option.)


Biggest challenges facing digital advertisers

Challenges digital advertisers are facing this year were divided into three categories: search, social and Amazon, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2019 Top 500.

Within search, advertisers indicated that meeting volume targets (29%), or the amount of sales necessary to reach a target, was the largest challenge, followed closely by hitting efficiency targets (28%) and integrating product feeds (27%). Social challenges included attribution/cross-device measurement (28%), generating quality creative (26%) and brand safety (26%).

The biggest challenges digital advertisers are facing this year, however, is in Amazon advertising. Respondents indicated that using audience data—both first and third party—was the most difficult aspect of Amazon advertising, and that understanding Amazon advertising techniques was also problematic. Performance of Amazon advertising compared with other forms of advertising was also a challenge.


Data privacy, video advertising and visual search were the three largest industry marketing trends advertisers believe to be impacting their business the most in 2019. A total of 22% of digital advertisers indicated that both video advertising and information security in the form of data privacy, tracking restrictions and ad blocking will have the largest impact on their businesses this year.

“It’s clear that privacy is top-of-mind among advertisers due to a combination of industry factors—General Data Protection Regulation rollout and some high-profile fines for violations, the arrival of the California Consumer Privacy Act is pending, and the constant drumbeat of privacy concerns around the big publishers in 2019,” MacLaggan says. “Advertisers are very sensitive to these privacy and tracking issues and need to strike a balance between brand safety/sound privacy policies and ad performance tied to audience targeting.”


Increasing Amazon spend

In terms of Amazon spending, 60% of digital advertisers surveyed reported an increase to their advertising budget this year, while 37% said it would remain steady. For 55% of participants, growth opportunities were cited as the primary reason they started using Amazon for digital advertising last year, and 43% indicated that they are currently using or planning to use Amazon demand-side platform (DSP), the bidding and purchasing function of auction-based advertising. A DSP allows digital advertisers to manage several ad exchange and data exchange accounts on one system, wherein real-time bidding takes place. With a DSP, users can optimize their accounts based on key performance indicators.

Advertising with Amazon isn’t all flawless, though. When asked how they viewed Amazon’s digital advertising options, 37% of respondents indicated that the campaign management tools needed improvement, and 23% said that there was limited reporting.

The three biggest challenges organizations are facing around Amazon advertising in 2019 include leveraging audience data (32%), best practices (30%) and performance on the platform vs. other forms of advertising (29%). (Respondents could choose more than one answer.)


Trends for 2019

Ad spend is increasing for shopping ad formats, with 65% of digital advertisers indicating that their company’s use of shoppable images or shopping ads within paid research will increase in 2019 compared with 2018. Additionally, 62% of those advertisers who are currently using paid social believe their company’s use of shoppable images or shopping ads within social channels will increase in 2019.

“Our customer base supports many of these trends, including the rise of Instagram in gathering a significant percentage of paid social ad budget and the increasing importance of the stories ad format,” MacLaggan says. “We’re also seeing growth in ecommerce ad spend by our customers, led by Amazon advertising in general and sponsored brands in particular. Google shopping ads are also driving strong results.”

More so, 32% of respondents reported they believed the most effective social ad format for their company were video ads, with 26% of respondents saying image ads were most effective, 23% indicated that stories were and 19% saying that carousel ads were more effective.

Finally, 84% of those who use paid search for their companies are currently using or planning to use Google’s responsive search ads format for 2019. These are essentially standard text ads that are converted to resemble display ads. They are adjusted automatically to fit any available ad space with a reformatting of size and appearance.