To Build Trust and Lasting Growth, UK Digital Advertising Needs to Commit to Efficiency

For all of the continued uncertainty about the pandemic’s impact on the UK, digital advertising continues its unprecedented growth. Ad spend is booming—with overall year-over-year growth estimates as high as 30%.

There’s an even more hopeful, if quieter, rebound happening.  A Credos research report from October highlighted how trust in UK advertising has improved by 25% since its lowest point in 2015. The biggest driver of this increased trust is the heightened visibility around new privacy regulations. 

All of this speaks to the tremendous work the industry has done in collaborating and evolving to meet two major challenges: the pandemic and the decline in consumer trust. But in order to meet the privacy needs and changing habits of consumers, the UK digital advertising industry must become more efficient.

Changing habits, evolving programmatic

When COVID-19 pushed everyone inside and onto their screens, programmatic adapted to meet these changing consumption habits. 

Smartphone and video display drove digital growth, and video display spend continues to outpace all other spend. Adapting to new mobile and video consumption habits helped media owners maintain their revenue during the pandemic. Digital ad spend now dominates the UK ad industry, with as much as 80% of overall ad spend going digital in 2021. 

In their “Real Living” report released in November, the IAB UK notes that consumers are now always online, “in theory giving advertisers limitless potential to engage.” But those consumers connect across an increasingly diverse range of screens and channels—as many as five devices each day.*

Growth will come from continuing to connect with consumers across their preferred devices. The more media buyers can engage with those consumers on their terms, the more they can maximise engagement at scale. 

Programmatic has always been a dynamic industry where innovation drives growth, but it still faces some of its greatest technical challenges. These include ongoing issues of fraud in CTV and restrictive technology in mobile app environments that hamper inventory selling. Developing a truly omnichannel exchange will ensure that UK media owners’ can continue to grow in the post-COVID digital world. 

Programmatic technology must keep evolving to meet UK consumers across their preferred devices in order to keep funding the content that they love. An omnichannel exchange, in prioritising efficiency, will speak a common technical language across devices while respecting the differences in business and usage for each. 

This will open up campaigns of unprecedented scale and ease as media buyers connect with consumers across devices on campaigns they activate from a single exchange. 

Now is not the time to slow down. 

In privacy, the biggest challenges are still ahead

The evolving solutions for addressability in a post-cookie world make regaining trust from UK consumers an even greater challenge. 

In 2021, we saw the industry work together to build practices that create a more accountable ecosystem. Facing Google’s plans to deprecate the cookie by 2023, ad tech providers built a portfolio of addressable solutions, including universal ID, contextual, and first-party data solutions to meet the monetisation needs of media owners. 

The move away from cookies is an opportunity to elevate consumer trust to the key measure of success for the industry. We’ll see media owners use this shift as an opportunity to reinvigorate their relationship with consumers. 

Some of the biggest challenges for the industry are still ahead. The recent ruling from the Belgian Data Protection Authority, which found IAB Europe’s Transparency and Consent Framework didn’t sufficiently protect the identity of consumers, shows that GDPR will continue to evolve in order to protect European consumers. 

Meanwhile, the upcoming Online Safety Bill in the UK will impose greater governmental regulation on online content as it seeks to penalise platforms found to be a home for hate speech. It could have a transformative impact on the industry.

These laws each take steps to help consumers feel more safe online. Ad tech providers must play their part in proactively addressing these changes. They also need to be agile in adapting to solutions that work for both media owners and buyers. Sudden shifts in privacy regulations from platforms can upend media strategies overnight, and tech partners need to be ready to help guide their customers through the evolving privacy landscape of 2022 and beyond. 

By committing to efficiency, the UK digital advertising industry can accelerate efforts to overcome these challenges. This means expecting the unexpected and building tech that can pivot rapidly to meet new consumer needs for privacy and shifting platform requirements.

The best that programmatic can be

In the omnichannel environment of the future, efficiency will become the main driver of growth and a crucial strategy in regaining consumer trust. 

Large-scale campaigns drive down the price per auction and increase yields for media buyers and owners. The more they spend, the cheaper each auction becomes. This will help keep the open web competitive and ensure media owners continue to receive their fair share as they monetise effectively through available identity solutions. At the same time, tech that can adapt quickly will better protect the UK digital consumer as regulations change. 

The past few years have reinforced how the industry can evolve when under pressure. This year, we’re going to see how efficiency is the path that allows the industry to mature, discovering new ways to monetise as it builds long-lasting consumer trust. 

*IAB UK Real Living Report, November 2021

Michael Mullaney

Michael Mullaney

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