Marketing Spend Outlook 2021

16 December 2021

Plural is delighted to launch the first annual Marketing Spend Outlook. Based on data gathered in 2021, this study provides a comprehensive view of B2B and B2C marketing spend across channels and an outlook for 2021-2024.

Our aim is to begin to frame the conversation for a better understanding of how marketing activity and spend is changing, where it is heading, and what this means for all stakeholders and participants.


The need for a comprehensive view of marketing spend across channels

In Plural’s extensive strategy and advisory work across marketing and communications we have found that existing published data on marketing spend is siloed.

Marketing is shifting from a linear, traditional ad-buying approach to a more complex, multi-channel approach with a focus on tech, digital media, content and data. In this environment, it is more important than ever for marketers, vendors, service providers and investors to understand how spend is shifting between channels.

To address this challenge, Plural has developed a universal view of marketing spend, with a methodology developed through our consulting work, and combining primary research with marketing decision makers with a comprehensive review of published data.


Highlights of the 2021 Marketing Spend Outlook

  • Marketing spend is rebounding in 2021, recouping the declines caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Longer term growth is expected to be c.6% in the UK and 7% in the US.
  • B2C marketers continue to further invest in digital channels. By 2024, paid digital media is forecast to remain the largest area of external marketing spend for B2C. Investment in supporting tech and data infrastructure is expected to optimize digital spend.
  • B2B marketing will grow at a faster rate than historically. Professionalization of the function is driving increased digital and face-to-face spend, and requires more agency support. Account Based Marketing (ABM) and content are contributing to this growth.
  • Marketing leaders expect to further in-house marketing activities, in particular brand strategy, and data & insight. Brands are seeking a balance between external specialisms, costs, responsiveness, and flexibility.
  • Increased investment in MarTech capabilities is a priority for most marketers. The near-term focus is on improving customer analytics and investing in personalization, remarketing and social media management platforms.


Download the 2021 Marketing Spend Outlook


The study includes analysis and commentary on:

  • How digitization is driving structural shifts in marketing budgets,
  • The expected change in paid media spend by channel,
  • Critical channels for B2B and B2C marketers post-Covid,
  • In-housing trends for marketers, and
  • The intended investment in Marketing Technology (MarTech) platforms.



Through our proprietary framework to segment marketing spend, Plural surveyed 45 B2C and B2B marketers with budget responsibility in the US and UK to gather insights on their current budgets and spend outlook.

Survey responses were triangulated and supported by additional in-depth interviews with senior marketing executives and a review of published data on industry spend. This data was incorporated into Plural’s forecast model and used to identify key drivers for marketing in the near future.

Our work also leverages insight gained on over 150 marketing and events engagements. These projects involved interviews with marketers and deep-dive analysis into marketing sub segments across a range of geographies and disciplines.



The 2021 Marketing Spend Outlook was led by Jonathan Dufton and Jim Easton. Plural team members who contributed to this research and analysis include Alex Holt, Isabel Bourke, Monique Dunne, Alex Easdale and Shreyasi Das.