Mobile, video are key growth drivers in UK digital ad spend

By Lorna White


London, United Kingdom


Each year, the Interactive Advertising Bureau works with PwC and multiple member organisations to analyse digital ad spend in the United Kingdom and highlight where growth is coming from. For the last few years, the industry has continued to grow, and mobile was a core driver for that increase.

And 2017 was a similar case: 45% of all digital ad spend was on mobile, compared to just 9% five years ago.

The analysis found digital advertising grew 14.3% to £11.55 billion, which is huge! The amount spent on mobile increased to £1.41 billion (37.4%), showing that the spend aligns with where we are seeing consumers spend time.

As more people spend more time on mobile devices, mobile advertising continues to increase in popularity.
As more people spend more time on mobile devices, mobile advertising continues to increase in popularity.

In 2017, we saw UK adults spent more time online on smartphones than on computers and tablets combined, with smartphones accounting for 59% of time in the final quarter of 2017.

Brands therefore need to be present in this environment, but the vast increase in spend highlights the need to ensure the consumer experience is right, rather than interruptive and bombarding with irrelevant messaging.

While mobile was a key driver in spend growth, mobile video ads were the fastest-growing online ad format:

  • Advertisers spent £476 million more (+69%) on them than in 2016.
  • Video ad spend overall (including phones, computers, and tablets) increased 47% to £1.61 billion.
  • And 73% of all video spend now goes on smartphones.

These statistics show video is a very important format where users are consuming more video content, especially on smartphones.

Brands can utilise the opportunity to reach consumers with a more immersive and engaging format in mobile environments. That is, they can use different signals to layer relevance within a traditionally “broadcast” format.

Further YouGov data alongside this spending data notes that, in terms of online smartphone activities, listening to a podcast has seen the biggest rise among smartphone users, with a “net” rise in popularity of 30% followed by viewing social media “stories” (up 29%), reading news articles (up 24%), and learning a new skill (up 22%). This highlights the fast-paced changes in the digital market where uptake is fast (such as in the case of stories formats on Instagram and Facebook).

It’s important for brands to be up-to-date and working in these environments, but they also need to ensure the message and consumer experience is at the heart of any marketing strategy rather than just jumping to the “next big thing.”

Further key stats include:

  • Social media spend rose 38% to £2.39 billion, or one in every five pounds spent on digital ads. Further, 83% of social media budgets now go to smartphones.
  • In-feed advertising rose 9% to £950 million.
  • Out-stream video (up 94% to £900m) overtook pre-/post-roll (up 11% to £671m) as the most popular video format.
  • 80% of the £3.84 billion spent on display advertising was traded programmatically — up from 72% in 2016. Further, 63% is being traded through direct means, such as private marketplaces, rather than on open exchanges (17%).
  • Paid-for search rose 16% to £5.82 billion and classifieds fell -1% to £1.47 billion.

Read the full report here.

About Lorna White

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