Though the tech giants have proven to be relatively resilient to the worst of Covid’s impact on the advertising industry, the pandemic still stung: Facebook still saw the slowest revenue growth since its 2012 IPO and Google reported its first revenue decline in company history.

Analysts said factors like the amount of revenue coming from direct-response versus brand advertising, exposure to areas like travel, and Google’s sheer size gave Facebook’s ad business a leg up over Google during the second quarter.

In notes to investors on Thursday and Friday, analysts explained why Facebook is enduring the pandemic better than Google. Here’s what they had to say.

Brand advertising vs. direct response

While direct-response advertising refers to placements that encourage a more immediate action, like downloading an app or clicking a link, brand advertisements are a longer-term play. They’re more focused on attributes like what a brand stands for or how it makes a consumer feel. During the pandemic, direct-response advertising has been strong, but spending on brand campaigns has been negatively impacted.

Morgan Stanley analysts said Facebook’s ad revenue growth speaks to how it is driving and benefiting from the “surging direct-response [and] e-commerce ad environment.” (During last quarter’s earnings call, Facebook Chief Financial Officer Dave Wehner said the company hadn’t given a specific number on how much of its advertising business is direct response but said the category drives its business.)

“FB’s DR-heavy advertising business and push capabilities continue to supplement hard hit verticals (e.g., Travel) with growing ones (e.g. gaming, app installs, ecommerce) [helping] it maintain growth so far through the challenging period,” Bernstein analysts said in an investor note.

It’s a different story at Google’s YouTube, where Bernstein analysts estimated 80% of revenue came from brand advertising. The analysts estimated that, given weakness in brand advertising, YouTube will continue to face “strong headwinds in the coming quarters.”

 

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