There's no escaping advertising. Billboards, signs and commercials are everywhere. You can add plenty of website banner ads to that list, as well. Advertisers are now spending more on online ads than ever before and are increasingly directing their dollars to desktop and mobile mediums as TV ads fall out of favor.
Not surprisingly, this spending surge could mean big profits for the stocks and investors in digital media and advertising spaces.
More Than Broadcast Television
Advertisers are finding that many people now spend more time on their phones and computers than watching TV. According to a study by Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), advertisers spent $42.8 billion on interactive Internet advertising - in both desktop and mobile channels - last year in the U.S. That’s a nearly 17% increase from 2012. Aside from the huge bump in spending, one key takeaway was this amount has finally eclipsed what advertisers spend on broadcast television. The other notable change is that much of that spending is now going toward mobile devices.
As smartphones and tablet computers made by the likes of Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple Inc. (Nasdaq:AAPL) gain in popularity, advertisers have followed suit. IAB & PwC found that mobile advertising spending rose a staggering 120% to reach $9.6 billion in 2013.
That sum is only expected to grow. According to trade publication eMarketer, 2014 will see mobile ad spending leap by another 56% to reach nearly $15 billion. By 2016, eMarketer predicts that spending on mobile ads will rival desktop internet ads and by 2017 it will reach nearly $35.62 billion. That number will dwarf desktop’s $27.21 billion in ad spend.
Meanwhile, the amount of spending and market shares of television, radio, newspapers and magazines will continue to fall.
A Digital “Wants vs. Needs” Portfolio
All in all, the shift in mobile and digital adverting is still only in the second or third inning. That could leave plenty of profit for investors willing to gamble on the firms proving these services to companies. Broad tech funds like the First Trust Dow Jones Internet Index (NYSE:FDN) do include some exposure to major beneficiaries of this online spending like Mountain View, Calif.-based Google Inc. (Nasdaq:GOOG) and Menlo Park, Calif.-based Facebook Inc. (NYSE:FB). However, the fund is not a pure play. That means investors wanting to play the trend have to do some digging.
One interesting choice could be enterprise software giant Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq:ORCL). The Redwood City, Calif.-based software provider recently made some moves into the cloud computing space that target mobile ad spending. Following its purchase of marketing automation company Eloqua, ORCL recently paid $1.5 billion for San Bruno, Calif.'s Responsys Inc. (Nasdaq:MKTG). Responsys makes software that delivers targeted sales messages. The deal made Oracle a significant player in targeted advertising across various digital channels. It also could make Responsys rival Marketo, Inc. (Nasdaq:MKTO), based in San Mateo, Calif., a buyout target as well.
Other options include some of the digital ad firms that have recently gone public. Shares of New York-based online video specialist Tremor Video Inc. (Nasdaq:TRMR) have sunk over 60% since its IPO as investors have abandoned momentum stocks. However, TRMR could be an interesting buy as it has nearly $2 per share in cash, no debt and positive cash flow. Likewise, San Francisco cloud-based advertiser Marin Software Inc. (Nasdaq:MRIN) features a hefty cash hoard and a similar downward trading pattern. Both could be interesting plays at their current levels. Another name to consider is Silicon Valley-based Rocket Fuel Inc. (Nasdaq:FUEL).
Finally, there's Westlake Village, Calif.-based Conversant Inc. (Nasdaq:CVNR). Formerly known as ValueClick, CVNR is a leader in the digital advertising space. It sold its owned and operated websites, including Investopedia.com, in January 2014 marking a rebranding/reorientation that should help the company focus on its core business.
The Bottom Line
The digital advertising landscape continues to see its market share grow and spending on mobile and internet ads is following suit. For investors, the time could be right to bet on digital advertising players.