2022 in Review: the year we reunited IRL

Posted on Tuesday 13 December 2022 | Jon Mew - CEO, IAB UK

Jon Mew, CEO of IAB UK, reflects on the past year and how we came together with our members to drive the industry forwards

Yep, it’s that time again. The lights are up, the temperature has finally dipped, and the streets outside the IAB office are humming with bag-laden Christmas shoppers. I like this part of the year - before all the resolutions and predictions begin in earnest - when there is a bit of time to reflect on a) where the hell the past 12 months went and b) what we’ve achieved together as an industry over that time.  

In short, a lot. While 2022 has been momentous and turbulent in many ways, it’s also been - on a day-to-day level - far more normal than the previous couple of years. We’ve finally been able to come back together properly, with no masks or awkward elbow bumps, and it’s an understatement to say that we’ve made the most of it. Leadership Summit, Engage and Digital Upfronts all returned, and it’s been a real highlight of my year to see so many of you - our members - in-person again. Thank you to all of you who came along to an IAB event or two this year, it’s been brilliant and I look forward to seeing even more of you next year. 

Not content to bring back the established favourites, we also introduced new dates into the calendar. The Last Thursday Club for instance - which gives IAB members a chance to catch up every month - and IAB Debrief, which was all about putting advertisers on stage to share the campaigns that have driven outstanding results and redefined what digital advertising can do. I’m really pleased to say both will be returning in 2023. 

It’s also been a year in which we reported further growth for digital advertising. Back in April, we released our Digital Adspend report for 2021, which revealed the biggest full year market growth in 15 years. The data showed that investment in digital ads grew by 41% to £23.5 billion and spend was widespread, with the industry up by 33% even when excluding the five largest companies. This point in particular is really positive - at the IAB, we’ve always been clear that the long-term sustainability of the digital ad industry must be underpinned by a healthy, diverse and competitive market, which these figures support. 

Of course, it would be remiss not to mention that our H1 2022 Adspend update reported a more modest 15% increase in spend for the first six months of this year, bringing growth back in-line with pre-pandemic rates. It would have been astonishing to maintain the elevated surge in ad spend seen in 2021, which was no doubt fuelled by lockdowns, so this levelling off isn’t surprising - particularly given the huge political and economic uncertainty we’ve seen in 2022. Looking ahead, none of us are under any illusion that 2023 will be easy, but - just like during the pandemic - I believe we can achieve so much more if we work together. 

At the IAB, we’ll be doubling down on promoting the effectiveness of digital advertising and making the case for continuing to invest in marketing throughout a recession. We have plenty of research that shows how - when used right - digital can drive impressive results, with different channels playing unique and indispensable roles across the path to purchase. Next year will see us focusing on ensuring that advertisers can easily access the wealth of evidence that supports this - both from the IAB and from our members. 

We’ll also be delving into the fast-growing channels that are gaining more and more traction on media plans. Gaming, digital audio and retail media, to name a few, will be key focuses for us as we look at how our industry is evolving. 

This is particularly important given the pending deprecation of third-party cookies. Helping our members to prepare for this shift and informing advertisers about the variety of measurement and targeting tools they can utilise across different digital touchpoints will remain an ongoing priority.  Related to this - and in response to research we have conducted that shows privacy and data transparency are key challenges for advertisers online - we will adopt a heightened and specific focus on both areas to help alleviate advertisers’ concerns. 

As ever, we will continue to stick up for our members’ interests and make the case for digital advertising to policymakers. This year we have seen the planned HFSS online ad ban delayed to 2025 - as a direct result of the lobbying from our industry - and we have been making a strong case for the Government to work with the digital ad industry on the Online Advertising Programme. Just this week we held a reception in Parliament where IAB members spoke directly to MPs about how maintaining the ad-funded web is vital for SMEs and, ultimately, society as a whole. 

Ensuring we jointly uphold shared standards and best practice is essential to support the case for self-regulation, and the power to do this is in all of our hands. From the Gold Standard - which this year evolved to introduce a focus on improving supply chain transparency - to the vital work of the ASA, there is a great deal of self-regulation that is delivering and we need to ensure that the Government understands and protects what is working. 

Finally, I’ve saved the biggest challenge until last - making our industry more environmentally sustainable has become a pressing priority for us this year and will continue to be so going forwards. We’ve all become more aware of how digital advertising is contributing to climate change and the freakishly hot summer we’ve just experienced has underlined how important it is that we act now. 

As well as setting up a Sustainability Group to steer our collective efforts, this year has seen us publish our first Sustainability Glossary and showcase the steps that IAB members are taking to bring us closer to net zero. Perhaps more than in any other area of our work, collaboration is going to be absolutely essential if we are to make a real difference here, so if you make one New Year’s resolution then make it this - get in touch and get involved with our sustainability work. 

For now though, as another year draws to a close, I would like to say a huge thank you to each and every one of our members. Your support for the work we do at the IAB is so valuable - whether that’s coming along to events, being an active member of one of our industry groups, or sharing your content on the IAB Member Vault (or all three!). Have a brilliant Christmas and New Year, we look forward to working with you again in 2023.

Written by

Jon Mew


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