Shifts in digital marketing

The pandemic has forced most companies, big and small, to pivot their businesses to digital by changing business models to cater to e-commerce and/or spending more in digital marketing. In fact, global digital advertising is the only form of media that saw growth in 2020 (3.2 percent year-on-year) according to a report from Dentsu. The Asia-Pacific region’s share grew to 55.7 percent for digital ad spending, higher than the global average of 48 percent and was the largest in terms of percentage across regions globally.

This year, digital media will account for 50 percent of global ad spend, expected to grow by 10.1 percent, further to the report. Social media is projected to see the fastest growth at 18.3 percent this year of all the digital channels analyzed, followed by paid search at 11 percent and online video at 10.8 percent. Consequently, marketers are expected to increase their investment in YouTube, Google, Instagram, and TikTok this year, based on research of marketing intelligence firm, WARC.


In the Philippines, digital ad spend in 2020 declined by 4 percent, which stood at $558 million, based on the Digital 2021 report of We Are Social and Hootsuite. Of all the digital advertising categories, only social media ad and digital video ad spending experienced growths, increasing by 4.7 percent and 4.8 percent respectively, further to the report.

In 2020, ads on social media accounted for the major source of brand discovery at 50.2 percent, according to the Digital 2021 report. Social media also stood as the primary channel for brand research in the country in 2002, standing at 65.4 percent of internet users aged 16 to 64. Other digital channels followed – search engine (58.4 percent), product and brand websites (46.2 percent), mobile apps (39.2 percent), product and band blogs (35.6 percent), and vlogs (35 percent).


All these bode well for digital marketers in the Philippines, where its citizens continue to lead the world in terms of hours spent on social media and are spending even longer hours on social networks. According to the Digital 2021 report, Filipinos spent an average of four hours and 15 minutes each day on social media, a 22-minute jump from the country’s Digital 2020 average of three hours and 53 minutes. The Philippines also came in first in daily time spent using the internet, logging in an average of 10 hours and 56 minutes, which is higher by one hour and 11 minutes compared to 2019.

Consumer e-commerce spending in the Philippines has apparently shifted due to the pandemic, with a growth of 42.5 percent in 2020 valued at $3.55 billion. Based on the Digital 2021 report by Hootsuite, e-commerce spending on travel, mobility, and accommodation suffered a 53.8-percent decline in 2020. Driven by work-from-home and FOGO (fear of going out), all other categories saw tremendous e-commerce spending growth: fashion and beauty (28 percent), electronics and physical media (37.4 percent), food and personal care (64.3 percent), furniture and appliances (46.3 percent), toys and DIY (do it yourself) hobbies (47.8 percent), digital music (41.1 percent) and video games (30.8 percent).

Another surprising finding is that in all age groups from 16 to 64 years, more than 70 percent of the internet users purchased a product online.


In 2021 and beyond, we will see even more significant shifts in the digital behavior of consumers and businesses, which digital marketers need to be aware of. Consumers and business customers will embrace digital even more as they adjust to the digital normal.

These will lead to a saturation of the digital messages that inundate various digital channels. Successful digital marketers, therefore, will be those who will identify new customer personas and recalibrate their digital marketing efforts. It is also important for companies and brands to reformulate their value propositions, and uniformly and consistently communicate these to various digital channels.

Since social media is the primary channel and source of information for Filipinos when searching for a product or discovering a brand, digital marketers need to consider different video formats for each demographic or psychographic target group.

For example, in the Philippines, we have seen a steady rise of short video content on Facebook, Instagram stories, TikTok, and YouTube. Companies and brands are using influencers to communicate value propositions and induce purchase. This is still an effective digital media, based on finding by digital marketing agencies.


Short and easy-to-consume content, with texts and images, is also rising and being used by successful digital marketers. Product and brand blogs, newsletters, mobile app content, and short consumer reviews are formats that digital markets can use. The key in using any digital format is to ask these questions:

How can I capture my audience in the first three seconds?

Facebook and Nielsen found that up to 47 percent of the value in a video campaign was delivered in the first three seconds, while up to 74 percent of the value was delivered in the first ten. So, if a video or content can hold your audience’s attention for the first three seconds, you have a higher chance of successfully delivering your message.

Does my digital message communicate my company’s value proposition?

A value proposition is a set of benefits that a customer will derive from a service or a product. Digital marketing messages should communicate how a product or service addresses a need or solve a problem.

Is my content relevant?

Content can help educate your audience, help your brand or company become more visible online, and increase traffic to all other digital channels like website and mobile app.


Digital marketers need to adapt to these unprecedented shifts in digital adoption and consumption among consumers and businesses.

The author is the founder and chief executive officer of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and culture transformation consulting firm. He is Fellow at the US-based Institute for Digital Transformation. He teaches strategic management in the MBA Program of De La Salle University. The author may be emailed at