Volatility is back, and stocks are dropping. Whenever this happens, there are two really smart things investors should do. First, buy defensive names, because these stocks are inherently less subject to market volatility. Second, buy secular growth names, because these stocks will be able to keep growing even if economic and financial market volatility persists.
With respect to secular growth stocks, one of the best secular growth sectors to buy into as volatility rises is the digital ad sector. Why? Because this is a secular growth market that won’t stall out as a result of rising U.S.-China trade tensions.
Broadly speaking, everyone and their best friend is becoming more addicted to the internet. That’s why the global digital ad market grew at a 20%-plus clip in 2018. As that addiction continues to grow, more and more ad dollars will continue to flow in bulk into the digital channel. That’s why this industry projects as a double-digit growth industry for the next several years. None of this will change because the U.S. and China are engaged in a trade dispute. Instead, the digital ad industry will continue to grow, and digital ad companies will continue to report healthy revenue and profit growth.
Ultimately, healthy revenue and profit growth will drive healthy gains in digital ad stocks, regardless of the trade backdrop. Because of this, now looks like a good time to buy some digital ad stocks on weakness.
Which ones should you be looking at? Let’s take a look at seven digital ad stocks to buy on recent weakness.
At the top of this list is social media giant Facebook (NASDAQ:FB).
Put simply, Facebook is the 300-pound gorilla in the digital advertising world, and it’s only scratching the surface of its long-term potential. Between Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger, roughly 6 billion non-unique users across the globe are in the Facebook ecosystem, and those users spend hours a day in the ecosystem. Thus, Facebook has unprecedented reach and scale, which inherently gives the social media giant the best ad targeting capabilities.
Still, Facebook is only monetizing about half of its 6 billion non-unique users, as Messenger and WhatsApp remain largely ad-free. Plus, Facebook is just starting on its commerce growth initiative, as digital commerce is a natural vertical that springs out of building the digital equivalent of a town square.
Broadly, then, Facebook is a really big digital ad company that is only going to get bigger. As it does get bigger, FB stock will head higher.
Right now, there are some concerns related to Alphabet’s digital ad business. Those concerns are well-founded. Broadly speaking, Alphabet’s digital ad business was built for desktop, not mobile. Thus, as engagement has shifted to mobile, Alphabet’s digital ad business has suffered, and this has resulted in a revenue growth rate slowdown and margin compression.
But, it’s important to put these concerns in context. Alphabet is still the world’s largest digital advertiser in the world, by virtue of Google Search being the backbone of the global internet and YouTube being the second-largest social platform in the world, behind only Facebook. Alphabet’s digital ad business is also still growing at a ~20% rate, and margins are starting to stabilize as TAC growth is moderating.
All in all, then, Alphabet has had its struggles in the digital ad world, but through them all, this company remains the leader in the secular growth digital ad market. Because of this, Alphabet will continue growing at a healthy rate over the next several years, and that healthy growth will lead GOOG stock higher.
The Trade Desk (TTD)
Lesser known than other names on this list, The Trade Desk (NASDAQ:TTD) is nonetheless one of the more exciting digital ad stocks in the market.
The Trade Desk is a leader in what is called the programmatic advertising market. This market is simply data-driven automated ad purchasing, so that companies can take the guess-work and manual labor out of ad spend allocation, and instead trust The Trade Desk platform to optimize ad spend. This is exactly what is happening, and The Trade Desk continues to win ad dollar share at an impressive rate.
This programmatic advertising trend will persist for the foreseeable future. In 2018, programmatic ad spend comprised roughly 25% of total digital ad spend. Back in 2016, that number was 22%. By 2030, that number will likely be well north of 30%. Meanwhile, The Trade Desk will continue to win share in this market. Back in 2016, TTD’s programmatic ad spend share was under 2.5%. This year, it should be close to 4%.
Thus, with The Trade Desk, you have a hyper-growth company rapidly gaining share in a hyper-growth market. Big share gains in a big growth market imply big growth potential for TTD over the next several years. That big growth potential will push TTD stock significantly higher in the long run.
Next up, we have Twitter (NYSE:TWTR), the once left-for-dead social media company that is in the middle of a huge turnaround.
Once upon a time, Twitter’s digital ad business was struggling to grow. Indeed, during a several quarter stretch a few years back, Twitter’s digital ad business was actually reporting year-over-year revenue declines. But, that has all changed now. Over the past several quarters, Twitter has improved its digital ad capabilities, and the digital ad business has consequently turned into a 15%-plus growth business.
This new growth trend should persist. Twitter has increasingly established staying power in the consumer internet landscape as a go-to place for crowdsourced sentiment and feedback on current events. At the same time, the company has proven itself as a viable advertising medium with strong targeting capabilities. Thus, at worse, this company should maintain share in the secular growth digital ad market for the foreseeable future. At best, the company actually continues to gain share.
In either scenario, Twitter projects as a healthy revenue growth company over the next several years. Meanwhile, margins are ramping from a depressed base, and as they continue to do so, healthy revenue growth will turn into robust profit growth. Robust profit growth will push TWTR stock higher long term.
The youngest stock on this list, Pinterest (NYSE:PINS) is worth a look here because its digital ad business is very young, growing very quickly and it has the potential to be very big one day.
Pinterest is a very big visual discovery platform that is still growing very quickly. The platform has roughly 291 million monthly active users, and grew that user base by 22% year-over-year last quarter. Yet, despite this huge user base, Pinterest doesn’t have a big market cap. Pinterest’s market cap is $14 billion, implying a market cap per user of under $50. Over at Twitter, market cap per user is up around $85.
Why the huge discrepancy? Pinterest’s ad business is much younger and smaller than Twitter’s ad business. But, Pinterest’s ad business is also growing very quickly (54% growth last quarter), as is the company’s average revenue per user rate (up 26% last quarter). Given the company’s huge user base, if Pinterest stays on this growth track of expanding average revenue per user, then Pinterest’s ad business at scale could be enormous.
If it does get enormous, then today’s valuation — market cap per user of under $50 — is a steal. Naturally, it will head toward Twitter-levels around $85. That valuation expansion, on top of continued user growth, should propel PINS stock way higher over the next several years.
Not known for digital advertising, Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) is nonetheless a company that will leverage a rapidly expanding digital ad business to drive robust profit growth over the next several years.
Amazon is an e-commerce behemoth. But, the e-commerce business is low margin, and those margins continue to be pressured by bigger and bigger competition. Thus, in order to supercharge profit growth, Amazon is looking into other high growth, high margin verticals. One of those verticals is digital advertising, since Amazon.com is one of the most visited websites in the world, Amazon has a wealth of consumer purchasing data to increase the effectiveness of ads, and the digital ad industry features high margins.
Consequently, Amazon’s digital ad business has had no trouble growing by leaps and bounds over the past few years. But, it’s still relatively small, accounting for just about 4% of the digital ad market this year. Over time, that share will grow, implying huge growth potential for Amazon’s digital ad business.
The important thing is that as Amazon’s digital ad business grows, margins across the whole business will be pulled higher, and profits will ramp. As profits ramp, AMZN stock will move higher.
Last, but certainly not least, we have Roku (NASDAQ:ROKU), the connected TV platform that is a play on the huge shift in advertising dollars from linear to internet TV.
Ad dollars always follow consumption, and consumption in the TV world is rapidly shifting from linear TV to internet TV. Consequently, ad dollars are similarly shifting from linear TV to internet TV. A big portion of those ad dollars are flowing into the Roku ecosystem, since Roku has established itself as an early leader in the advertising-video-on-demand (AVOD) space by amassing a user base of nearly 30 million internet TV streamers.
Roku projects to remain a leader in this space for the foreseeable future. First mover’s advantage is a real advantage here, since there are now 30 million consumers out there who are used to the Roku UI and want to stick to that UI. Further, Roku is dominating in the smart TV world, and most importantly, the platform is content-neutral, so you can access various streaming services without any complications.
All in all, then, Roku projects as a big and important player in the secular growth AVOD market for a lot longer. That means Roku will be a big revenue and profit grower over the next several years, and all that growth should drive ROKU stock meaningfully higher.
As of this writing, Luke Lango was long FB, GOOG, TTD, PINS, AMZN and ROKU.