UK digital ad spend took a five per cent hit in H1 2020

UK digital advertising spend fell by five per cent in the first half of 2020, thanks to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic particularly in the second quarter, according to data from IAB UK and PwC.

In wider economic terms, a five per cent fall in spending isn’t too bad. In the second quarter of the year alone, UK GDP was down 20.4 per cent.

Over the first half of the year, video and display ad spend actually grew, with video up 5.7 per cent year-on-year to £1.35bn and display increasing 0.3 per cent to £2.84bn. Meanwhile, spend on mobile devices only suffered a one per cent hit, falling to £3.85bn.

Elsewhere, investment in search ads slid 3.7 per cent to £3.7bn, compared to the first half of 2019, and classified took a big 33 per cent hit in tumbling down to £485m.

The overall fall in the UK’s digital advertising spend can be attributed to uncertainty around the pandemic. However, advertisers may have missed out on many opportunities to reach people with the decision to reduce spend. Across the first half of 2020, time spent online in the UK was up 13 per cent compared to the same period of 2019, as you would expect given the number of people either working from home or on furlough.

“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,” said Jon Mew, IAB UK’s CEO.

“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.”