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This Upfront Season Digital Dollars Could Jump by as Much as 50% Says Nielsen’s New Annual CMO Report

4 minute read | June 2018

Traditional Media Remains Critical to Today’s CMOs, ROI, Advertising Waste and Marketing Tech are Key Concerns

New York, NY – June 6, 2018 – The launch of the Nielsen CMO Report 2018, the first in an annual series of CMO reports by Nielsen (NYSE: NLSN), reveals that 82% of marketers expect to increase their digital spend as a percentage of their total advertising budget and that nearly 80% of marketers plan to increase their investment in analytics or attribution solutions in the next 12 months. The research, based on in-depth U.S.-based CMO interviews and extensive survey data, made it clear that it’s not more data that marketers are looking for, rather better insight. Only 25% of marketers reported being highly confident in their ability to accurately measure return on investment (ROI).

The report, timed to help media and brands during the upfront season, is a look into the minds of today’s CMOs as they tackle the challenges of an increasingly fragmented marketplace. Across nearly all business verticals, marketers reported large shifts in how they evaluate, measure and budget across media channels. 

  • Marketers revealed how important digital media has become to their overall marketing efforts.
  • Eighty-two percent of marketers expect to increase their digital media spend as a percentage of their total advertising budget in the next twelve-months (by an average of +49%).
  • Search and social media were ranked the most important digital channels by over 73% of participants.
  • The proof of digital media effectiveness, however, remains unclear; only 26% of marketers surveyed were highly confident in their ability to accurately quantify digital media ROI.

While respondents didn’t—in general—rank traditional media as highly as digital, they made it clear that traditional channels remain critical to brand building and its associated top-of-funnel marketing metrics including brand awareness, recall and favorability.

  • Less than a third of respondents expect an increase in traditional media budgets over the next 12 months.
  • Television continues to hold its own as the most important traditional media channel by over 51% of participating companies; 30% of respondents ranked TV as extremely important to their marketing strategy.
  • Proving ROI remains a challenge for traditional media as well; only 23% of marketers were highly confident in measuring traditional media ROI.

The report demonstrated that brand advertisers are increasingly organizing themselves in more channel-agnostic ways with customers at the center of their strategy. Four years ago that was not the case for over 70% of companies*. Now nearly as many marketers (62%) reported being organized in a way that supports an omnichannel approach with unified reporting structures and revenue goals.  Challenges with omnichannel marketing execution persist, however, as only a quarter of brand advertisers are highly confident in their current marketing technology. Respondents reported a need for an easier approach to marketing technology that better integrates multi-channel consumer data and insights in one place.

“We conducted the research for the Nielsen CMO Report 2018 with one central goal, to give voice to brand advertisers who are facing some of the most daunting challenges of their organizations,” said Eric Solomon, SVP of Product Marketing and Strategy at Nielsen. “What we heard was that despite the prevalence of new advertising and promotional channels and significant investments in data and technology, marketers are still struggling to generate and prove sales results in an increasingly omnichannel world.”

The Nielsen CMO Report 2018 makes clear, brand advertisers and their agencies are doing their best to adapt to changes in media consumption and consumer behavior, but there is still considerable progress to be made. The ability to quantify ROI and demonstrate real business results is imperative as is the need for a simple, unified technology platform that makes continuous improvement in marketing performance possible.

Download the report here.   

*“Optimizing Integrated Multi-Screen Campaigns” survey conducted by the Association of National Advertisers and Nielsen.              


Nielsen Holdings plc (NYSE: NLSN) is a global measurement and data analytics company that provides the most complete and trusted view available of consumers and markets worldwide. Our approach marries proprietary Nielsen data with other data sources to help clients around the world understand what’s happening now, what’s happening next, and how to best act on this knowledge. For more than 90 years Nielsen has provided data and analytics based on scientific rigor and innovation, continually developing new ways to answer the most important questions facing the media, advertising, retail and fast-moving consumer goods industries. An S&P 500 company, Nielsen has operations in over 100 countries, covering more than 90% of the world’s population. For more information, visit


Sal Tuzzeo: