Digital ad market proves resilient with 5% growth in 2020

Posted on: Wednesday 21 April 2021 | IAB UK

IAB UK’s Digital Adspend report for 2020, conducted with PwC, shows that the digital advertising market grew by 5% last year to a total of £16.5 billion

Released today, our full-year Digital Adspend report shows that the UK’s digital advertising market rallied in 2020, following the initial impact of the pandemic on spend. The report, produced with PwC, finds that overall spend grew by 5% across the course of the year to reach a total of £16.5 billion. 

Key takeouts include: 

  • For the first time, digital audio and podcasting data are included in the report, a move that reflects the growth of audio within the digital landscape. Overall, the digital audio market grew by 17% year-on-year to a total of £103.7 million, including podcast spend which rocketed by 43%. Streaming spend increased by 8% 

  • Social display is the fastest-growing ad format, up 19%. This reflects wider shifts in consumer behaviour during the pandemic, with UKOM data showing that time spent with social media grew by 12% in 2020*.  Elsewhere within the display market, video display also outgrew the market at 19%. Investment in non-social display - including standard display banners - fell by 2%

  • Search continues to attract the largest share of spend across formats, up 7% year-on-year to account for 51% of all digital ad spend - growth that coincides with the explosion of the ecommerce market

  • The Affiliate market grew by 10% year-on-year in 2020, to a total of £627 million. 2020’s report also captures smartphone affiliate spend for the first time – showing a 23% YoY increase. It accounts for 41% of all affiliate spend, while non-smartphone affiliate spend grew by 3% 

  • Spend on smartphone ads grew by 10%, while non-smartphone mobile spend held steady, down just 1%

  • Classified spend fell by 30% to a total of £976 million, with the market displaying the effects of the pandemic as well as longer-term structural decline

Commenting on the report, Jon Mew, CEO of IAB UK, said: “When the pandemic hit, all of our predictions for 2020 went out the window. We knew it was going to be a tough year for the entire media industry, digital advertising included, and the impact continues to be felt. It’s brilliant news that the digital ad market has rallied and is back in growth - buoyed by spending in areas such as video, social and podcasts - but it’s important to recognise that this growth won’t be felt by all areas of the digital ad industry and that recovery is still underway. Today’s results are very encouraging and show that we’re moving in the right direction.”

*UKOM social time spent: UKOM Approved Comscore data, Total Minutes 2020 v Total Minutes 2019 for the social media category based on adults 18+


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