Despite marketing budgets falling to just 8% of overall company revenue, marketers are taking that little flexibility in spend and funneling it into their media strategies. This revelation was surfaced in Gartner’s annual “2024 CMO Spend Survey,” which seeks to generate a pulse on the current state of marketing budgets, spending and strategic priorities.

The importance of paid media was a clear theme throughout the report, as media investments grew to 28% of budget in 2024 — while spending fell in other areas, such as martech, labor and agencies. Digital dominated a growing share of paid media spend, taking up 57% of budgets in 2024, compared to 55% in 2023.

The top online channels marketers are investing in included search, social advertising and digital display advertising, while the top offline channels consisted of event marketing, sponsorships and television.

“We’ve seen a major shift in investment strategies, reflecting tightened budgets and higher growth aspirations,” said Ewan McIntyre, VP Analyst and Chief of Research for the Gartner Marketing Practice, in a statement. “The drop in martech investment doesn’t signal a dulled appetite for technology; rather, it reflects CMOs’ diminishing influence over martech as other enterprise leaders, such as IT, take more control. Meanwhile, CMOs are clearly prioritizing media spend as they seek to drive revenue growth.”

AI Emerges As Time-Saving Contender

As CMOs chase revenue growth despite budget cuts, AI has emerged as an important tool: According to a previous Gartner study, 73% of marketers are currently piloting or using generative AI. In the most recent research, 33% of CMOs identified time and cost efficiencies as part of their top three benefits when considering the ROI of AI investments.

“Reduced budgets are only a problem if marketing leaders are working with the same tools as before, but that’s not the case now that CMOs have AI,” said McIntyre. “Gen AI is delivering enhanced productivity, despite constrained resources. Most CMOs believe AI may save the day — 64% said they lack the budget to execute their 2024 strategy, but gen AI offers the opportunity to grow the marketing function’s impact far beyond its budgetary constraints.”