Since our first-ever U.S. Advertising forecast was published in 1950, we’ve been making headlines and sharing our unique perspective and outlooks on the marketplace. Here you’ll find our latest headlines, press releases and thought leadership.


Real Talk with MAGNA Global: Solving Brand Suitability

October 18, 2019 // Media Trials
Thought Leadership

Project managers Lisa Kimura and Prayushi Amin share key findings from our latest media trial, Solving Brand Suitability.

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How Zefr Uses Humans to Help YouTube’s Less-Than-Perfect Targeting

October 18, 2019 // In the News
Media Trials

By SHOSHANA WODINSKY.  Published by ADWEEK on 17 October 2019.

It’s an approach that drives clicks and conversions

Zefr logo


When it comes to brand safety, brands might be better off relying on humans, rather than machines.

According to new research out today co-produced by L.A.-based contextual data company Zefr and the advertising analytics outfit Magna, media buyers could get better bang for their buck by including humans in their content-review process, rather than relying on preset white- or blacklists. Zefr—which patented its “human in the loop” brand-suitability algorithm that guides machine learning models using human review—found that the resulting ads turned out to be more relevant, reached consumers that were more likely to be in-market and were more likely to convert as a result.

“In the last two years, the platforms have gotten really good at machine learning for brand safety,” said Andrew Serby, Zefr’s vp of marketing. “All the content that’s incredibly problematic in terms of the obvious stuff —whether that’s violence or hate speech or crime, they’ve done a really good job.”

What they aren’t good at is nuance.

Efforts to keep brand-safety snafus at bay have seen legitimate news sites and niche publishers fall onto blacklists for publishing kosher content with nonkosher keywords. According to Serby, this is the reason why Zefr is a company that’s trying to shift the advertising zeitgeist from conversations of the black-and-white world of brand safety and into the shades of grey of “brand suitability”—case-by-case definitions of what a particular brand is comfortable advertising against.

Unsurprisingly, humans are better at picking apart these nuances than their machine counterparts, which is why Zefr’s tech works on a brand-by-brand basis, taking their inputs about the kind of content they’re comfortable appearing alongside and building machine learning models off of that.

“Instead of targeting what you don’t want to be around, it’s about being proactive,” Serby explained. “It’s about deciding the kind of content you do want to be around, and finding the content that complements your brand’s message and drives better results.”

For the study, Zefr worked with three brands in three verticals: Nationwide, Ubisoft and ScottsMiracle-Gro, and targeted YouTube ads from these companies against more than 3,000 YouTube viewers who were targeted in one of four ways. The first reflected the typical buy, targeting popular channels with an eye toward targeting a certain demographic. The second was a channel-by-channel buy and the third was based on keywords that were brand-relevant. The fourth used Zefr’s human-centric algorithm, using “signals” from each of the three brands to determine which kinds of content would be suitable—and safe—for each.

“This is content that you might not get in trouble for advertising against, but it’s not the content that an advertiser would be excited to promote,” Serby said. “It’s a much more nuanced discussion.”

That nuance pays off.

When it comes to reaching in-market consumers, Zefr’s proprietary methods were found to convert roughly 11% of the time. While that might not sound like a large number, keyword targeting resulted in only 6% of those same conversions, and channel- or demographic-level targeting barely scraped 1% each. All three of those methods reached an in-market less than Zefr’s proprietary tech, as well, at 75% of the time, rather than upwards of 80%, as Zefr found.

“When brands determine the signals used to identify content that makes the most sense for them, misalignment between content and ad is curbed, and each ad works to its full potential,” Zefr wrote in a statement.

Aside from the relevancy of an ad in the content it’s playing alongside, there’s also the question of the “quality” of content a brand is willing to appear alongside.

“Typically, a brand will have some definition for quality content, in terms of the premium nature of that content—it’s studio-produced; it’s official, TV-like content,” said Serby. Because Zefr focuses more on brand-led signals, rather than quality, it expands that definition. And the more advertisers expand that idea, “the more they can capture what a consumer thinks is quality on platforms that don’t necessarily look like television,” he said.

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Solving Brand Suitability

October 18, 2019 // Media Trials
Press Releases


The Study, Conducted by Magna and Zefr Explores The Impact of Machine Learning Combined with Human Supervision on Brand Suitability


LOS ANGELES – October 17, 2018 – “Human in the loop” contextual targeting – which uses brand preferences to power machine learning that is overseen by humans – is dramatically more effective than traditional modes of ad targeting, according to “Solving Brand Suitability,” a new study by MAGNA and the IPG Media Lab conducted with Zefr, the Contextual DMP™ for brands and agencies.


The study aimed to provide a foundational understanding of how brands can better achieve “brand suitability,” defined by advertisers as their unique positive and negative contextual preferences. Advertisers are increasingly focused on how different targeting methods fare in achieving it.


The study found that just 25% of consumers think brands are doing a good job of advertising on YouTube and only 18% of those who expect relevance between the ads and the video said that the ads are typically aligned with the videos they are watching. The study then explored different methods marketers could employ to improve “Brand Suitability.” Nearly 4,000 consumers were surveyed on their reactions to ads from three brands across verticals – Nationwide (insurance), Ubisoft (gaming) and Scotts Miracle Grow (paper/manufacturing). Ads were delivered to consumers via different forms of targeting: demographic; channel; keyword; and “human in the loop contextual targeting” (where a team consistently reviews videos in order to train machine learning models). The study revealed that ads delivered through “human in the loop” contextual targeting outperformed all other methodologies in a number of key metrics:


  • Relevance: 64% of consumers felt ads delivered via “human in the loop” contextual   targeting are relevant (48% for channel targeting, 52% for demo targeting and only 44% for keyword targeting).


  • In-Market Reach: 82% of consumers reached via “human in the loop” contextual targeting were in-market consumers for the product, as ads are naturally reaching a more relevant audience.


  • Better Experiences: The same creative is received significantly more positively when delivered via “human in the loop” targeting. Consumers ranked the ads higher quality (83%) as well as more authentic (64%) and innovative (57%) – outperforming all other targeting methodologies.


  • Consumers Are More Positive on the Brand: Respondents view brands overall more positively when targeted via “human in the loop,” describing them as more savvy and thoughtful vs. the same ad targeted via the other methodologies.


  • …And They’re More Likely to Buy: The same ad generates nearly double the purchase intent for respondents targeted through “human in the loop” (+11%) than the next most powerful methodology – keyword targeting (+6%).


“Contextual targeting is highly nuanced for each brand, especially in video, and traditional methodologies like static ‘whitelists’ and channel targeting often miss the mark, negatively impacting reach and wasting valuable media dollars,” said Rich Raddon, co-CEO of ZEFR.  “This study provides valuable industry insights on how brands can take control with human-in-the-loop contextual targeting and increase the impact on every part of the funnel, from in-market reach to purchase intent.”


A somewhat unexpected insight revealed in the study is the considerable opportunity for advertisers to reach audiences by expanding their definitions of “quality” video.  44% of content machines identify as low-quality is perceived as high-quality by consumers who view it as enjoyable and interesting. The study shows that in video, quality is often in the eye of the beholder, and brands can succeed by tapping into this significant pool of largely uncharted, brand-suitable ad inventory.


UM’s Chief Digital and Innovation Officer, Joshua Lowcock said. “This is a firm reminder context matters as much as the data used to find an audience. The more aligned the ad is with content, the more likely consumers are to view the brand as innovative, savvy, trustworthy and one for which they will pay more. Using human-supervised machine learning to help find suitable content is one way of finding that balance.”

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About Zefr

Zefr is a contextual technology company that delivers precise and effective contextual solutions for brands and agencies. Its Contextual DMP™ is an identity-less solution that enables brands and agencies to capture, organize, and activate their nuanced contextual preferences at scale, for video and beyond.  By leveraging proprietary Human-in-the-Loop technology, the company builds customized and nuanced contextual solutions for major national brands and advertising agencies. The company is headquartered in Los Angeles, California, with offices in New York, Chicago, Toronto and London. For more information, go to:


About IPG Media Lab

Part of the Interpublic network, the IPG Media Lab identifies and researches innovations and trends that will change the media landscape and how brands engage with their audiences. Since 2006, the Lab has worked with our clients and with industry partners who can help them best adapt to disruptive change. Its expertise, resources and consulting services also help to inform the learnings, strategies and business outcomes of all Interpublic agencies. For more information, please visit or follow @ipglab.


About MAGNA   

MAGNA is the centralized IPG Mediabrands resource for market intelligence, media investment and innovation strategies. The agency utilizes its insights, forecasts and strategic relationships to provide clients with a distinct marketplace advantage.

MAGNA harnesses the aggregate power of all IPG media investments to drive maximum value for its clients through preferred pricing and premium inventory. The agency’s Investment and Innovation teams architect go-to-market media strategies across all channels including linear television, print, digital, programmatic and emerging media. MAGNA is a leader in generating data and technology-enabled solutions that drive optimal client performance and business results.

The agency’s Intelligence unit has been a coveted source of crucial industry information, including media value predictions, for more than 60 years. It produces more than 40 annual reports on audience trends, media spend and market demand as well as ad effectiveness. For more information, please visit


Startups’ TV Advertising Soars in New Report

September 20, 2019 // In the News


Direct-to-consumer marketers continue to expand beyond their digital roots

A Warby Parker ad promotes the ability to virtually “try on” glasses via smartphone. PHOTO: WARBY PARKER VIA YOUTUBE

Young brands that once advertised nearly exclusively through digital media are moving into television at a rapid clip, according to a new report on U.S. ad spending for the U.S.

So-called direct-to-consumer marketers increased their ad spending 32% in the first half of the year, but grew their national TV ad spending by 52.9%, according to estimates from ad-buying group Magna Global. That follows a 35.8% increase in their national TV spending last year.

“It’s from a low base, obviously, because until three years ago, they were almost 100% digital, but the growth continues to be strong,” said Vincent Létang, executive vice president of global market intelligence at Magna, which is part of Interpublic Group of Co s.

DTC companies made their mark by cutting out middlemen such as physical retail distributors and using targeted social-media advertising to find customers instead.

As they have matured, however, high-profile examples such as Warby Parker and Casper Sleep Inc. have opened stores and begun advertising more broadly.

Traditional ad sellers now hope that they can become a major new revenue source.

Excluding the effects of cyclical events such as elections and World Cup soccer, overall ad spending in the U.S. will grow 6.3% this year to $221 billion, Magna predicted, adjusting an earlier forecast of 5.1%.

Without the benefit of cyclical events, ad spending growth will slow next year to 3.8% as economic growth decelerates, according to Magna.

“The good news from an advertising standpoint is that historically, advertising is correlated to personal spending more than overall gross domestic product, and personal spending is not expected to slow down that much,” Mr. Létang said. “Consumer brands need to speak to individual consumers.”

Factoring in the 2020 election campaign cycle as well as advertising around the Tokyo Summer Olympics, however, will yield a 6.2% overall jump in ad spending next year, Magna said, adjusting its previous 5.8% forecast upward.

Political campaigns are likely to continue boosting their activity on social media, providing an incremental lift of roughly 3% next year, and local TV will continue to collect the largest slice of campaign spending, Mr. Létang said.

“Increasing political budgets will allow every media type to benefit to a degree,” he said.

Read on


September 19, 2019 // Press Releases

US Advertising Market Grows by +8% in First Half as Tech Spend Continues to Fuel Editorial Media




  1. Based on its analysis of media owner’s financial reports, MAGNA finds that the US ad market place (net advertising revenues) grew by almost +8% in the first half of 2019 (+7.6% to $107 billion) accelerating further on an already strong market in
  2. The strong economic environment drove the increased spend from several key verticals (finance, retail, travel) while tech giants and “Direct-to-Consumer” (DTC) brands continued to expand their marketing budget to include editorial
  3. Following the strong first half, MAGNA increased its full year 2019 forecast to +6.3% (excluding cyclical) from

+5.1% previously (June update).

  1. Direct Digital Media ad sales grew by +19% in the first half (search +16%, social +31%), a mild and expected slowdown from the high growth rates of 2017-2018 (+22% and +40% ), as these formats gradually mature.
  2. Editorial Media ad sales (TV, publishing, audio, OOH) were stable in the first half (+0.2%), thanks to strong growth in digital video (+25%) and OOH (+7%), the recovery in audio media (+2%) and the stability of national TV (0%) offsetting the struggling local TV (-5%) and publishing (-12%).
  3. For 2020, MAGNA forecasts an 11th consecutive year of growth as an all-time-high in political ad spend will generate $5.5 billion in incremental ad revenues and will mitigate the impact of the expected moderate economic
  4. MAGNA has increased its 2020 growth forecast to +6.2%, including cyclical revenue (elections and Olympics) from +5.8% in Excluding cyclical factors, all-media ad revenues will slow down from +6.3% this year (2019) to +3.8% next year (2020).
  5. Editorial media ad sales will grow by +1% thanks to cyclical events (-2.5% excluding cyclical) while Direct Digital Media ad sales (search and social) will mature further: +12% vs +17% in FY
  6. Innovation in media will continue to attract marketers, with OTT and podcasting among the media formats presenting brands with new ways of reaching OTT-based consumption of TV and video content on connected TVs will generate $4.3 billion in ad revenues in 2020.
  7. Podcasting is still an emerging format but already a quarter of all Americans are listening to podcasts weekly and major consumer brands are starting advertising into podcasts in addition to DTC and direct response, which will help increase ad sales by +27% in 2020 to $850

According to Vincent Létang, EVP Global Market Intelligence and author of the report: “The US ad market had a great first half thanks to a strong economic environment as well as media innovation and a dynamic technology vertical. Digital media ad sales matured, as expected, but continued to grow close to +20% yoy, while editorial media performed better than expected thanks a recovery of radio, and OOH in full swing. We forecast an 11th year of growth in 2020 as record political spending will generate an all-time high of $5.5 billion in incremental ad revenue and mitigate the effect of the expected economic slowdown”





  • Strong Ad Market in First Based on its analysis of US media owner’s financial reports, MAGNA finds that net advertising revenues (NAR) grew strongly in the first half of 2019:

+7.6% vs 1H18, across all media, accelerating further on an already strong market in 2018. MAGNA therefore increased its full year 2019 growth forecast to +6.3% (excluding cyclical) from +5.1% in the previous (June) forecast update.

  • The main driver behind the first half advertising demand was a stronger-than-expected economic environment, with GDP growing by +2.6% and personal consumption (NPCE: the best precursor to advertising spending according to MAGNA’s historical statistical models) growing by +4%, as consumers shrugged off the threat of a trade war and continued to spend their growing This strong economic environment contributed to increased spend from several key verticals, including finance, retail, and travel.
  • Marketing innovation remains the other key driver to ad spend growth, with “Direct-to- Consumer” (DTC) brands (Wayfair, Peloton, Homelight, just to mention the three largest spenders year to date) growing their collective all-media spend by +30%, and their national TV spend by +50% in the first For years DTC brands were online-only start-ups in retail or services, spending 100% of their small marketing budgets on digital media, but many of them have reached the scale where national mass media (TV, radio, OOH) becomes a relevant part of the mix. The national TV spend of DTC brands has grown to the point where the top 35 spenders in that group collectively account for half the combined spend of the five major technology players (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google – FAANGs) (i.e. approx. $350 million in the first half). Meanwhile three of the five FAANGs paused in their own TV growth in the first half following a +40% growth in 2018.
  • Direct Digital Media (search, social media) ad sales grew by +19% to $47 billion in the first Google and Facebook continued to show strong growth and other social media players saw stronger growth in the second quarter. However, total digital direct media advertising sales growth has started to slow down noticeably, as anticipated by MAGNA. Search ad revenues grew by an estimated +16% in the first half, to $29 billion, compared to a consistent growth rate of +22% across 2018. Social media ad revenues grew by +31% to

$16 billion as the slowdown started earlier and appears to be more gradual: growth was

+40% in 1Q18, slowing down gradually to +30% in 4Q18.




  • Total Editorial Media Advertising Sales (TV, digital video, publishing, audio, OOH) were stable in the first half (+0.2% to $61 billion). It was their best performance in years, following a decline in 2018 (-1.5%) and 2017 (-2.4%). 2Q (+0.6%) was the first growth quarters in three That resilient performance from editorial media channels was driven by strong demand addressed to digital video (+25%), OOH (+7%) and audio media (+2%), and the stability of national TV (0%), offsetting the continued struggles of local TV (-5% excluding cyclical effect) and publishing (-12%).
  • Radio advertising sales grew slightly in 2Q19 for the third consecutive quarter (+0.7%), mostly thanks to network radio (+6%) while local radio ad sales were Broadcast radio finally stabilized following 20 consecutive quarters in the red (between 2013 and mid- 2018) as the largest  media owner  iHeart Media recently emerged from Chapter 11 Bankruptcy re-organization. Adding to the acceleration in digital audio formats and digital ad sales (+12% to $1.5 billion), the overall audio media sector recovered by +2.4% to $7.8 billion in the first half, after stagnating in both 2017 and 2018. MAGNA recently published a special report on take-off podcasting: as a quarter of all Americans are now listening to podcasts weekly, more and more major consumer brands are taking notice and starting to include podcasts in their audio campaigns. National brand’s ad dollars, adding to the core podcast users (DTC and direct response), will help increase ad sales by +27% in 2020 to

$850 million.

  • Linear national television ad sales were stable in the first half at $22bn, excluding the impact digital ad sales and the impact of cyclical Total advertising sales were up

+1.1% including digital advertising sales, as Hulu’s momentum continued from 2018 – where advertising sales grew by +45% – and into the first half of 2019. The finance (+9%), technology (+7%) and retail (+23%) verticals were the most dynamic, while DTC brands increased national advertising budgets by an impressive +50%. MAGNA expects advertising sales to slow down in the second half, resulting in a slight decrease (-1%) on a full year basis. Revenues will grow again in 2020 thanks a double-digit CPM inflation and the summer Olympics (+1%).

  • Out of home advertising sales gained nearly +7% in the first half of 2019 to $4.6bn. Growth peaked in the second quarter at +7.7%, the fastest growth in a Excluding the -4% decline in cinema ad revenues the growth of other OOH segments was in fact closer to +8% in the first half, with solid increases for the billboard and transit segments. Again, OOH benefits from the technology/entertainment verticals, driven by innovation and competition, increasing its ad budgets in editorial media. Amazon (+130% in 2Q), Disney (+25%), Apple (+22%) showed the largest growth rates year to date, while DTC brands (Bonobos, Casper, Keeps, Brooklinen, Bark Box, etc.) are increasingly using the medium too. Revenue derived from digital OOH units grew by +25% in the first half, driven by the constant growth in connected screens inventory, as exemplified by Outfront installing approx. 1,300 digital displays in New York’s subway system the first half of the year. MAGNA now expects that total OOH advertising sales will increase by +5.2% for full year 2019 and +3.2% in 2020.





  • For 2020, MAGNA forecasts an 11th consecutive year of growth as an all-time-high in political ad spend, generating almost $6 billion in incremental ad revenues, will mitigate the impact of the expected economic
  • Following the strong first half, the better-than-expected demand addressed to editorial media and robust pricing coming out of the TV upfronts for the 2019-2020 broadcast season, MAGNA has increased its 2020 growth forecast to +6.2%, from +5.8% in June, including cyclical revenues (elections and Olympics).
  • Having monitored the connection between the economic environment and advertising spending for 70 years, MAGNA firmly believes it remains the main driver behind the fluctuations of advertising Macro-economists (e.g. Philadelphia Fed’s Survey of Professional Forecasters) expect the US economy to slow down from the very strong growth of 2018-2019, but they are not forecasting a recession, despite the nervousness of some investors looking at the threat of trade wars and international tensions.
  • GDP is forecast to slow down only mildly from +2.3% in 2019 to +1.9% in 2020, but the good news for the media sector is that Personal Consumption – according to MAGNA research, the economic indicator best correlated with advertising spend historically and most responsible for the 2018-2019 heights – is expected to remain very strong next year (growing by more than +4% just like in 2018 in 2019).
  • Nevertheless, MAGNA is expecting the economic slowdown might take a toll on the spending in several key verticals (e.g. automotive, retail, finance), but fortunately, 2020 is the strongest year in the four-year cycle of events that typically drive extra ad spend and incremental ad
  • MAGNA expects the 2020 Presidential cycle to generate an all-time high in terms of political spend, which is bound to boost the revenues of local TV (who is and will remain the #1 channel for political campaign) while political strategists are ramping up their usage of social (almost $400 million in 2018 cycle), digital video and
  • By contrast, the Olympic factor 2020 may not grow against the previous events due to the general decline in audience affecting sports too (recent Olympic games, summer or winter, showed a pattern of -30% in ratings against previous events) and the problematic time zone this year (Tokyo). However, the rise in CPMs should help stabilize the overall spending and the event will still provide $800 million in incremental ad revenue for national TV in 2020. Together, the cyclical events of 2020 will therefore bring a record $6.5 billion of incremental advertising revenue to US media owners in 2020, compared to just $4.8bn in 2016, going a long way mitigating the effect of the economic slowdown in the short term.
  • Excluding cyclical factors, all-media revenue growth will slow down next year: +3.8% compared to +6.3% this Editorial Media ad sales will be stable (-2.5% but +1% with cyclical revenues) while Direct Digital Media (search and social) will grow by +12%.






MEDIA FORMATS 1H19 NAR 1H19 vs 1H18 FY 2019E FY 2020E
National TV (excl. CE) 22,997 1.1% 0.1% -1.2%
Local TV (excl. CE) 9,638 -3.6% -3.5% -3.4%
Publishing 10,546 -6.7% -7.1% -8.5%
Audio 7,752 2.4% 0.4% -1.5%
OOH 4,589 7.0% 5.2% 3.2%
Pure Play Digital Video 5,167 28.3% 24.8% 16.0%
Total Editorial (incl. digital, excl. CE) 60,689 0.3% -1.0% -2.5%
Paid Search 29,063 16.3% 14.2% 10.3%
Social Media 16,114 30.7% 27.2% 17.2%
Total Direct Digital 46,753 18.9% 16.7% 11.6%
Grand Total Media (excl. CE, excl. DM) 107,442 7.6% 6.3% 3.8%
of which linear ad sales 47,743 -2.2% -3.3% -4.6%
of which digital ad sales 59,699 17.0% 14.7% 10.1%

Source: MAGNA Sept. 2019. “NAR”: Net Advertising Revenue. “CE”: incremental ad revenues generated by cyclical events (elections, Olympics)



Editorial Media 90,088 28,065 118,153
Direct Digital Media 111,397 111,397
Grand Total 90,088 139,462 229,550


Editorial Media -4.6% 4.8% -2.5%
Direct Digital Media 11.6% 11.6%
Grand Total -4.6% 10.1% 3.8%


ALL MEDIA NAR ($BN) 2019 2020
Excluding Cyclical Events 221,048 229,550
Cyclical Events 570 5,878
Total Including Cyclical Events 221,618 235,428


Excluding Cyclical Events 6.3% 3.8%
Total Including Cyclical Events 4.1% 6.2%





MAGNA is the centralized IPG Mediabrands resource that develops intelligence, investment and innovation strategies for agency teams and clients. We utilize our insights, forecasts and strategic relationships to provide clients with a competitive marketplace advantage.

MAGNA harnesses the aggregate power of all IPG media investments to create leverage in the market, negotiate preferred pricing and secure premium inventory to drive maximum value for our clients. The MAGNA Investment and Innovation teams architect go-to-market investment strategies across all channels including linear television, print, digital and programmatic on behalf of IPG clients. The team focuses on the use of emerging media opportunities, as well as data and technology-enabled solutions to drive optimal client performance and business results.

MAGNA Intelligence has set the industry standard for more than 60 years by predicting the future of media value. The MAGNA Intelligence team produces more than 40 annual reports on audience trends, media spend and market demand as well as ad effectiveness.

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