Are Analysts Starting To Prefer Facebook Over Google?

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Google has long been at the top of Wall Street’s list when it comes to digital advertising, but then enters the new kid Facebook. Despite the fact that it’s much smaller than Google, the social network has become a major competitor for the search giant. It took about a year after its botched initial public offering for Facebook to actually gain the trust of Wall Street, but after it did that, it quickly became a Wall Street darling.

Are Analysts Starting To Prefer Facebook Over Google?

FB, the young and hip

Analysts frequently cover the two digital ad giants in the same research note, but it almost seems that there’s a shift going on. It’s not that analysts don’t like Google, but it’s possible that the bright and shiny newer thing is starting to look more attractive than the aging dinosaur. It’s a matter of young and hip over the older. There was a time when Google was young and hip, but then it moved into adulthood as its growth slowed down and it started to experience failures such as Google+, its attempt at social networking.

But it couldn’t beat Facebook at its own game.

Facebook preferred over Google

Morgan Stanley analyst Benjamin Swinburne said his top Internet pick is Facebook, and this is a sentiment that may be spreading. In a report dated Dec. 15, he interestingly lumped all of the TV ad market into one and then placed Facebook and Google side by side as the other two pieces of the advertising pie.

He noted that the U.S. ad market grew about 4% organically this year and last year, which was faster than the nation’s GDP growth. Search ad revenue accelerated, leading the way, and strong growth in online video ads and mobile display ads further boosted the overall market for advertising. He also described the national TV ad market as “surprisingly resilient.”

Next year the U.S. ad market is expected to be worth nearly $200 billion, and Swinburne estimates that about $80 billion of that ad spend will be online, with $35 billion going to Google Search and YouTube plus Facebook. He pegs TV ad spend at $65 billion and “other traditional” advertising at $55 billion.

Facebook, Google to rule the ad market

The analyst does expect Facebook’s revenue growth to decelerate next year to 38% from 55% this year in North America, but his estimate is still about 5% higher than consensus. The social network has been warning for some time that ad load will slow, and Swinburne sees this as a lever, with growth in pricing and engagement driving strength on the top line.

Between this year and 2020, he’s looking for about $19 billion in incremental U.S. ad spend for Facebook and about $7 billion in incremental YouTube. He predicts that other traditional media, not including TV, and other online firms will fund about 10% of that incremental spend, while the other 90% will be funded by an increase in total brand budgets. The analyst notes that this implies that Facebook will take about 75% of the growth in brand budgets

He feels that Google will see about $14 billion in incremental U.S. search spending from this year to 2020, with about 40% of that coming from share losses among traditional media platforms such as print and radio. He expects the other 60% to come from higher performance ad budgets, suggesting that Google search will take almost all of the “growth in performance budgets and share gains from traditional media.”

Facebook has other opportunities

One reason Facebook may be turning heads from Google is because of its attempts to diversify its business. Google is seen almost entirely as a search business or digital ad business, but Facebook also gets attention in the areas of video ads and messaging. Stifel analysts John Egbert and Logan Thomas took a deep dive into Facebook’s messaging opportunities next year.

They note that mobile devices have driven the surge in usage of messaging apps, and Facebook now has the biggest global messaging footprint between Messenger and WhatsApp. They estimate that WhatsApp and Messenger may offer between 6% and 21% upside to their total revenue estimate for Facebook in 2020, which stands at $63.7 billion. They also expect the social network to “build rich ecosystems” around its two messaging apps like it has done with Instagram.

Shares of Facebook stock closed down 0.58% at $119.87 on Friday, while Alphabet shares closed down 0.71% at $809.84.

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