Ad Blockers Be Damned - Display Is On A (Mobile) High

It can be easy to overestimate the problem of an issue that gets your back up. Take ad blocking. It's easy to read doom and gloom in each latest report, but then along come figures from the IAB UK to show that digital display grew 27.5% year-on-year for the first half of 2015. That's twice the growth of the UK digital marketing as a whole -- which during the first half of the year nudged GBP4bn. One point to note that will not surprise many is that 80% of this rise in digital display has been fueled by mobile.

This means that display now accounts for one in three of every pounds spent on digital marketing, its largest share ever.  As expected, search is still out there accounting for half of all digital advertising spend -- but it grew by only 8% in the first half of the year -- less than a third of the growth achieved by digital display. It's not surprising, given the saturation marketers are reporting in PPC search resulting in top keyword inflation that will naturally attract budget to other forms of digital marketing. Hence, social, native and video are all up 50% in the first half of the year, though it's worth pointing out that they remain at 14%, 8%, and 7% of overall digital marketing spend.

So a cold, sober look at the figures suggests that while ad blocking is clearly a huge problem that the industry needs to deal with, media consumption is at such a high level that display is growing at twice the rate of the general digital marketing sector. As budget moves in to mobile, accounting for 80% of the rise in digital display spending, it will be interesting to see if mobile ad blockers introduced to Safari at the same time as the most recent iOS update last month will have any impact in second-half figures.

It would appear that at the moment that ad blocking is being countered not so much by the industry, but by non-blocking consumers taking in so much content -- particularly on mobile. Or as Tim Elikington, chief strategy officer at IAB UK, put it: “Recently, a lot of the attention on digital advertising has been around the challenges, such as ad blocking. However, it's clear to see the UK digital advertising industry is maintaining its strong revenue growth at a much greater rate than the overall economy. The fact remains, as consumers spend more time on connected devices, advertisers must increasingly direct their attention and budgets there.” 

So the summary is that while the good times roll, it's OK. There is so much new money rolling into digital marketing, particularly display, that it isn't the end of the world if ad blocking is on the rise. That is to say for now, of course. The worrisome statistic is that ad blocking tends to be more prevalent among younger people, particularly males -- meaning that one in three Millennial men are estimated to be blocking ads. So it's definitely an area to keep an eye on in the future.

For now, however, these figures make spectacular reading and show the power of ad budgets following attention -- and that can only be good for mobile because the IAB UK points out that the channel accounts for 40% of our time spend online, yet only receives 27% of ad spend. It seems there is plenty of space left there for the good times to keep on rolling.

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