Digital ad spend dips 5% in H1 2020, despite surge in time spent online

Posted on: Thursday 15 October 2020 | IAB UK

Total UK digital ad spend fell 5% YoY to £7.06bn between Jan-June 2020, with the market reflecting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

Released today, IAB UK’s Digital Adspend data for H1 2020 shows that total digital advertising spend dipped by 5% in the first six months of the year, reflecting the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic had in Q2. The data, produced with PwC, shows that the digital advertising market is relatively stable given the wider economic context; UK GDP was down by 20.4% in Q2 2020 and the total UK ad market is predicted to decrease by 15.6% in 2020 compared to 2019, according to the Advertising Association/WARC Expenditure Report. 

The IAB’s update shows that the display market has grown slightly - up 0.3% to £2.84bn - a total year-on-year increase of £10m. Within this, video ad spend is up 5.7% to £1.35bn, reflecting the growth of digital streaming during lockdown.  

Investment in search ads fell slightly by 3.7% in the first six months of 2020, with revenue down £143m to £3.7bn compared to H1 2019. Meanwhile, spend on mobile devices dipped by just 1%, with spend totalling £3.85bn, while spend on classifieds decreased by £235m to £485m, a decline of 33% year-on-year. 

The overall fall in total digital ad spend is not reflected in time spent online, which has surged during the pandemic as people have increasingly turned to digital sources to stay informed, in touch and entertained. According to UKOM-endorsed data from Comscore, time spent online hit record levels in April, up 22% year-on-year. Across H1 2020, time spent online was up 13% vs 2019, yet digital ad spend fell by 5%.  

Commenting on this year’s H1 Digital Adspend results, IAB UK’s CEO Jon Mew said: “It’s not surprising that this year has seen the total digital advertising market contract as our industry deals with the upheaval and uncertainty of the pandemic. The data released today is hugely useful in understanding the health of the digital ad market as a whole and how different areas are faring - yet we know that this continues to be a hugely challenging time for many of our members and that the relatively small decline in digital ad spend at an industry-wide level won’t reflect the individual situations of all.

“Yet there is cause for hope. Following 22 years of consecutive growth, the digital ad market went into this crisis in a position of strength and it’s great to see some areas of growth, despite the circumstances. Most importantly, digital advertising continues to drive results, build brands and offer unique creative solutions for advertisers looking to reach huge and engaged audiences.”


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