UK Digital Ad Spend Soars, But What About The Brand Impact?

Although political and economic uncertainty remains, with the October 31st exit from the EU missed once again as a December election looms, AA and Warc figures are suggesting that UK advertising continue to grow at pace.

The organisations have ramped up their 2019 prediction by 0.4% to suggest that UK advertising marketing will grow 5% this year. It is the result, the research says, of "stellar" growth in online advertising. 

As ever with forecasts, we have the usual questions over how long can newspapers and magazines last with seemingly endless downturns in their fortunes, but this time we also have a new question. With all this new money coming into advertising, how is it going to be measured?

Let's cover the winners and losers first. There are charts accompanying the Mediatel story on the figures, but the standouts for massive growth that may not have been fully forecast are digital out-of-home and cinema. In fact, the latter grew by nearly 50% year-on-year in Q2, up 44% more than expected.

Search -- as ever -- is at the top of the list in terms of overall value, with better-than-expected growth exceeding 12% year-on-year.

When it comes to print, however, it's a proverbial game of two halves. Nationals are up both overall and in digital ad spend. The same applies to local papers on digital ad spend, but sadly, as one could have predicted, overall spend is down, as it is for magazines for both overall and online. So nationals will smile at the research, the rest of print will not be so pleased.

Which brings us to digital ad spend seeing, what the researcher call "stellar" growth of 12% for search and 11 for display between Q2 2018 and Q2 2019.

As ever, the overall ad spend figure going up, this time to a prediction of 5% growth in 2019, is being fuelled mostly by these channels.

This raises a fundamental question. How do advertisers know the campaigns are working for them? The IAB UK ran the "don't be a clickhead" campaign not so long ago, pointing out that there is a lot more to digital advertising success than clicks.

The point is that you get a lot of exposure and you're seen in the right places and that can have a huge branding uplift, putting your name in the minds of people who will remember you when it is time to convert.

The only problem is, research from On Device today suggests that only a quarter of campaigns are ever measured for brand impact. When they are, it is usually carried out by the media buyer itself, rather than an independent body, with the purpose of what the researchers call justifying ad spend.

The researchers suggest that brands looking for brand lift, through independent research, see a 20% improvement in brand awareness compared to those that conduct no research.

So we have a mismatch here. The IAB UK, and the media-buying niche of the digital advertising industry, are telling brands there is a lot more to display than clicks. And yet, slightly under a quarter of campaigns are invested for brand uplift, and even then, usually by a media agency looking to back up planning and buying decisions. This, of course, is not to blame agencies because it could well be the case that advertisers are not paying for brand-lift research.

It means that as a new money continues to flow into digital advertising, when it comes to brand uplift, we're still a little ways off from finding what advertisers get in return beyond clicks. 

1 comment about "UK Digital Ad Spend Soars, But What About The Brand Impact?".
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  1. Matt Keating from Exponential, October 30, 2019 at 1:22 p.m.

    Assuming we're talking about an upper funnel campaign, proper 'brand uplift' studies can cost a lot of money so media owners etc will typically only offer them as added value on rather large campaigns, way over the average booking value- and yep, advertisers / agencies are unlikely to offer to pay for them themselves (indeed they normally fish for them as added value).

    Also, many studies need a large sample size in terms of impressions, that again far exceed average booking values, so they are impractical in any case. This is my experience at any rate and I can't speak for all options that may be available on the market.

    In terms of performance campaigns, naturally you are probably looking towards a CPA target of some sort, which will be measureable in terms of e-comm (and there are online to offline measurement solutions out there too) and again CTR is a very bad guide on that front.

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