2024 Holiday Ad Outlook (Plus Prospect List)

June 28, 2024

What key trends are shaping the 2024 holiday season, and how marketers approach it? In a year where lingering inflation continues, and consumer sentiment is mixed, it can be hard to tell how the holiday season will pan out. We’re distilling several variables in the equation, from economic conditions, the “Election Effect,” and new government regulations to cultural nuances and shopping preferences impacting Q4 marketing strategies. Read on to uncover trends motivating marketers this year.

And if you’d like a curated list of brands projected to bolster holiday ad budgets, download our 2024 Holiday Spenders ebook: 

2024 Holiday Advertising Trends & Industry Factors

1)  Economic and timing trends

  • Economic growth: Despite inflation causing some tightening of belts (and a focus on discounting), the U.S. economy grew at a 3.3% annual pace in Q4 2023, and this year, the National Retail Federation expects retail sales will reach between $5.23 trillion and $5.28 trillion, a forecast in line with the 10-year pre-pandemic average annual sales growth of 3.6%. CMOs are banking on cautious optimism from consumers, but also addressing pricing concerns with discounting and “Buy now, pay later” payment promotions (more on that in section two).
  • The Election Effect: In January, eMarketer noted that following the 2016 election, US holiday retail sales grew 4.1%, up from initial predictions and 2015’s 2%. “People felt like the world was ending, so they thought, ‘May as well spend like it,’” said eMarketer analyst Zak Stambor. “No matter who wins this year, there’s going to be a sizable segment of the population that feels the same way,” said Stambor. Marketers are undoubtedly taking notice of the consumer sentiment seen in the last election and adjusting 2024 campaigns accordingly.
  • Early start to holiday marketing: There is a noticeable trend — also known as the “Christmas Creep” — toward starting holiday marketing campaigns earlier, with some brands beginning as early as September. This strategy aims to capture early shoppers and extend the holiday shopping season. Last year Macy’s – one of the brands profiled in our 2024 Holiday Spenders report, got a head start on holiday advertising by kicking off its holiday anthem spot in October. The 30-second ad debuted during the NFL on FOX, and ran a 60-second version in theaters and during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Look for earlier and earlier ad buys as well as in-store promotions (and download the report to see what we believe is in store for Macy’s this year).

2)  Mobile and social shopping trends

  • Rise of social shopping: Social media platforms—especially TikTok and Instagram—are significant channels for product discovery and purchases, particularly among Gen Z. We expect continual growth of spending on these channels during the Q4 seasons. In November and December of last year, Puma North America increased its TikTok advertising investment to $64k and $68k, up from an average of $29.6k per month in preceding months. We predict this year’s outlays could be even bigger; check out the 2024 Holiday Spenders report to learn more about opportunities with Puma.
  • Buy Now, Pay Later: Now more than ever, consumers expect flexible purchase options, especially at eCommerce checkout, but in virtually all payment environments. Proof that BNPL will be even bigger this year than last? The amount of “Buy Now, Pay Later” funds spent on grocery purchases rose 40% between early 2023 and 2024, while a record high of $25.9 billion of e-commerce spending between January 2024 and April 2024 involved BNPL platforms. Marketers who can deliver on a BNPL model are promoting it in their offerings, while fintech firms like Afterpay and Zezzle are in a prime position to be key players in the holiday shopping rush. 
  • Short-form video ads: The focus on shorter video ads is becoming more pronounced, with mobile video ad spending in the US projected to reach $53.9 billion by 2025. This trend caters to the growing preference for quick, engaging content that fits well with mobile viewing habits.

3)  Regulatory trends

  • California Consumer Protection Law: Beginning July 1, 2024, the “Honest Pricing Law” or “Hidden Fees Statute,” SB 478, makes it illegal for businesses to advertise or list a price for a good or service that does not include all required fees or charges (other than certain government taxes and shipping costs). The express purpose of SB 478 is to ban drip pricing, which the legislation describes as “advertising a price that is less than the actual price that a consumer will have to pay for a good or service.” So for the 2024 holiday season (at least in California), it will become illegal to advertise, display or offer a price for a good or service at an initial price and then tack on additional mandatory fees later in the buying process. While it’s still unclear how the statute will be policed, other states are taking steps to follow California’s lead, meaning marketers will likely be taking steps to be more transparent in their pricing guidelines. Potentially, they may even need additional compliance or agency assistance with this.
  • EU Digital Services Act: New regulations in the EU impose stricter rules on social media platforms to combat misinformation and targeted ads based on sensitive personal data.
  • California’s Assembly Bill 1366: Effective January 1, 2024, this bill establishes a restitution fund to fully compensate victims of false advertising or unfair competition.

4)  Cultural trends

  • Extended shopping seasons: According to the Hispanic Ads Shopping Trends report, Hispanic consumers, particularly those celebrating Three Kings Day, extend the holiday shopping season into January, presenting unique marketing opportunities.
  • Cultural nuances: Advertisers are increasingly tailoring campaigns to reflect the diverse cultural practices and preferences of multicultural consumers, enhancing engagement and relevance. This presents a particular opportunity for agencies that specialize in this area and for media properties that can help deliver a contextually relevant advertising experience to different audiences.
  • Digital-first shopping: Multicultural consumers, especially Asian and Millennial groups, are leading the shift towards online and mobile shopping.
  • Social influence: Multicultural consumers heavily rely on social circles and in-store displays for holiday gift ideas, influencing marketing strategies.
  • Sustainability focus: Consumers are increasingly choosing brands based on their sustainability practices, with 32% switching brands for this reason in 2023. 

5)  Influencers & Celebrity Endorsements

  • Micro-influencers: Micro-influencers are emerging as powerful voices in holiday advertising. They provide authentic product reviews that resonate with Gen Z, and their loyal followings make their endorsements highly effective.
  • Celebrity endorsements: Celebrity endorsements, like Bobby Flay’s exclusive cat food line with PetSmart (more on this in our 2024 report) are being featured in TV and radio ads, adding a familiar and engaging touch to campaigns.

There are unique marketing opportunities for agencies and sellers looking to work with holiday spenders leading up to Q4. Download our latest eBook, 2024 Holiday Spenders, to uncover opportunities with brands likely to up the ante this season so you can reach out and support them through holiday spending:

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