Marketers invest in ‘what works and what converts’

A new Gartner survey finds chief marketers remain positive about their budgets, despite negative economic headwinds.


New research from Gartner suggests CMOs are positive about the prospects of future budgetary growth, despite having their budgets shrink to their lowest levels since 2014.

What’s more, CMOs are looking to invest in “what works and what converts,” according to Gartner, allocating 26% of their marketing budgets to paid media after having invested in influencer strategies and social marketing in recent years.

According to the survey, which includes respondents from North American and U.K. organizations, just over 60% of CMOs expect their budgets to go up next year. Using consumer spending, prior year marketing performance and the budgetary strategy of the company as the top three indicators (in that order) of the broader business environment, CMOs remain hopeful of the economic outlook, despite rumblings that there could be a global recession on the horizon, Gartner notes.

Broken down by category, digital media has outpaced spending on offline advertising and TV (each at around 7% of the spend). The digital advertising piece includes a newcomer to the media planner’s toolkit, namely Amazon, which accounts for roughly 17% of the budget.

Spending on digital video and display remains high, while social still has the largest share at 23%. “It’s not that CMOs have abandoned social, but rather that they have come to accept that social media really is social advertising,” said Christi Eubanks, managing VP at Gartner for marketers, in a video presenting the findings.

The company finds that while OOH, radio and print ads remain important to CMOs’ media plans, chief marketers are less confident that support for those channels would last should the economic outlook change for the worse.

The Gartner CMO Spend survey also looks at the capabilities marketers are investing in to support their strategies. At the top of the list is market research and competitive insights at 32%, as well as marketing analytics and digital commerce at 32% and 31%, respectively. As such, they anticipate putting 16% of the budget towards data and analytics capabilities, 13% of towards market research, and 12% towards marketing operations.


Overall, CMOs spend less on martech, with that budget falling from 29% last year to 26% this year. But this doesn’t mean those capabilities have become less important to marketers, according to Eubanks. “It means that this budget is a little bit more prone to yo-yo,” especially now that marketers have built out robust martech stacks. “They’re looking for opportunities to rationalize, and opportunities to create some efficiencies as they’ve been aggressively spending over the last couple of years.”

The research found that organizations’ IT departments are now one of CMOs’ top supporters (at 13%), tied with the sales and business development team, and just ahead of CX leaders (at 12%). Meanwhile, respondents identified the finance, legal and supply chain teams as their “top inhibitors,” at 16%, 11% and 9%, respectively.

Source: Gartner CMO Spend Survey, 2020.