Facebook Advertising in 2021

What Will—and Will Not—Change

About This Report
How will advertising on Facebook evolve at a time when regulators are circling, advertisers are getting restless and consumer attitudes are sliding? This report, informed by extensive conversations with dozens of brand and agency executives, details our expectations over the next 24 months.

Executive Summary

Facebook’s problems are mounting. Although ad revenues for the mammoth social network are still rising, advertisers are getting restless, and users are, too.

How much will Facebook’s ad revenues change?

Worldwide ad spending on Facebook and Instagram combined will rise 22.5% this year and reach nearly $95 billion in 2021. The youthful Instagram has more momentum—its ad revenues will nearly double by 2021. But core Facebook will still account for 71.5% of total ad revenues for the company in 2021.

Will advertisers stick with Facebook despite its many problems?

Precise targeting, abundant reach—and a heavy amount of inertia—will keep advertisers locked in for the next couple of years. However, they are paying more attention than ever to how the company is navigating its challenges, and their concerns are growing.

Are any consumer engagement red flags starting to surface?

Yes. There will be continued declines in the number of younger users of Facebook in developed markets. And privacy concerns and intense media scrutiny are damaging Facebook’s reputation with consumers.

What will happen to ad targeting?

More ad targeting options will go away. Regulatory action, such as the $5 billion fine approved by the Federal Trade Commission this month, may play a role. But Facebook will continue to make its own changes in an attempt to stay one step ahead of regulators.

How will messaging and commerce evolve?

The company will have difficulty fulfilling its WeChat-like ambitions, at least in the US, and we believe messaging advertising will remain at a slow burn. But we do expect momentum in social commerce and commerce-related advertising.

What about Stories, Groups and videos?

The company will double down on Story advertising as this popular feature gains even more traction. Facebook will remain a leading player in video advertising, but the future of Facebook Watch is still murky. Finally, advertising will come to Facebook Groups, likely with new ad formats.

WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? This report details how marketers and consumers feel about Facebook now and predicts what will and won’t change about its ad business in the next two years.

KEY STAT: Ad revenues for Facebook and Instagram combined will reach nearly $95 billion in 2021.

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Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Advertisers Are Still Engaged but Growing Restless
  3. Consumers Are Also Restless
  1. How Facebook Ads Will Evolve
  2. Key Takeaways
  3. eMarketer Interviews
  1. Read Next
  2. Sources
  3. Media Gallery

Charts in This Report

Interviewed for This Report

Greg Allum
LQ Digital
Vice President, Social and Display
Interviewed February 20, 2019
Sarah Baehr
Horizon Media
Co-Chief Investment Officer
Interviewed March 25, 2019
John Battelle
Recount Media
Co-Founder and CEO
Interviewed May 13, 2019
Jessica Lustgarten Courtemanche
Vice President and Director, Data and Analysis
Interviewed February 26, 2019
John Dobrowolski
General Manager, Social
Interviewed May 14, 2019
David Fischer
Chief Revenue Officer
Interviewed May 30, 2019
Stacey Grier
The Clorox Company
Interviewed March 22, 2019
Doug Grumet
AMP Agency
Senior Vice President, Media
Interviewed April 11, 2019
Jascha Kaykas-Wolff
Interviewed March 25, 2019
Ajay Kapoor
Global Vice President and General Manager, Digital Transformation and Strategy
Interviewed May 3, 2019
Adam Kleinberg
Interviewed January 15, 2019
Allison Lowrie
ANGI Homeservices Inc.
Interviewed May 3, 2019
Justin Marshall
Wunderman Thompson Seattle
Interviewed May 7, 2019
Jon Morgenstern
Vayner Media
Senior Vice President, Head of Investment
Interviewed April 2, 2019
Zach Morrison
Elite SEM
Interviewed May 6, 2019
Bob Ray
Global CEO
Interviewed February 26, 2019
Brandon Rhoten
Potbelly Sandwich Works
Interviewed April 4, 2019
Tim Ringel
Reprise Digital
Global CEO
Interviewed December 20, 2018
Krish Sailam
Senior Vice President, Global Programmatic Solutions
Interviewed February 26, 2019
Peter Scherr
Interviewed April 11, 2019
Fabian Seelbach
Interviewed April 1, 2019
Steve Simpson
Publicis Groupe
Senior Global Executive
Interviewed February 26, 2019
Shiv Singh
Savvy Matters
Founder and CEO
Interviewed March 25, 2019
Scott Symonds
Managing Director
Interviewed April 3, 2019
Rishad Tobaccowala
Publicis Groupe
Chief Growth Officer
Interviewed March 21, 2019
Ben Tregoe
Senior Vice President, Business and Corporate Development
Interviewed May 20, 2019
Bill Tucker
Association of National Advertisers
Group Executive Vice President
Interviewed March 27, 2019
April Weeks
Executive Vice President, Media Services and Operations
Interviewed April 8, 2019
Chris Wexler
Senior Vice President, Media and Analytics
Interviewed April 3, 2019
Douglas Hoggatt
Vice President, Digital Marketing
Interviewed March 26, 2019

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Ross Benes
Blake Droesch
Junior Analyst
Bill Fisher
Senior Analyst
Natalie McGranahan
Senior Researcher and Taxonomy Manager
Monica Peart
Senior Director, Forecasting
Amy Rotondo
Research Manager, US
Martín Utreras
VP, Forecasting