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Ad spend is on the rise, fuelled by programmatic

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As we head towards the end of a difficult year, positivity around ad spend is beginning to appear once again. The latest data from the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) shows signs of cautious optimism for ad spending plans from major multinationals.

Results from Wave IV of the WFA’s Crisis Response Tracker found 54% of respondents are no longer deferring campaigns, with online display (up 6%) and online video (up 9%), both seeing higher levels of investment. The pandemic has shifted the marketing mix, qualitative findings from the WFA’s research reveal many multinationals are running more digital marketing activations and have fully transitioned to channel-agnostic video planning.

Meanwhile, IAB Europe’s Attitudes to Programmatic Advertising Report 2020 found that over 77% of display and 50% of video is now traded programmatically. Media owners have greater scope to boost the value of their inventory and programmatic over direct buys is clearly delivering the strongest success for publishers.

According to IAB Europe, data and targeting efficiencies are driving the uptick in programmatic ad spend across the ecosystem. Findings show at least 75% of agency buyers agree that these factors will remain key influencers in programmatic decision making moving forwards. In addition, more than 80% of advertisers cited ‘better use of data’ as their primary reason for programmatic investment – a notable increase on the 69% in 2019 – with 61% of ad tech vendors also reflecting this sentiment. The united push toward programmatic transactions, as a result of these attitudes, continues to build demand and expand opportunities to drive return on investment (ROI) for media owners.

Programmatic buys are also fuelling a boost to UK digital media quality, according to Integral Ad Science’s H1 2020 Media Quality Report. When compared to the average worldwide risk, programmatic buys in the UK outperform global averages across every environment measured – desktop display, desktop video, mobile web display and mobile web video. When purchased through programmatic transactions, video inventory especially results in lower rates of brand risk; mobile web video witnessed a risk decrease of 1.8 percentage points, falling to 5.6%, in comparison to the previous sixth months. The risk of contextual unsuitability or unsafe placements also declined for desktop video, which experienced a drop of 0.6 percentage points, decreasing to 5.3% in H1 2020.

Regarding viewability, increased adoption of the IAB Tech Lab’s Open Measurement SDK saw programmatic mobile app display viewable impressions increase by 5.1 percentage points to almost three-quarters (73.0%) when compared with H2 2019. While ad fraud levels in the UK remained steady throughout H1 2020, mobile web video saw the biggest drop in fraudulent activity for programmatic buys, decreasing 0.2 percentage points to 0.4%.

For publishers who have been hit hard by advertisers pausing ad spend throughout the pandemic, these reports present a glimmer of hope – half (50%) of advertisers fully expect to maintain their level of programmatic ad spending over the long term. Emphasising the quality of programmatic inventory, and reviewing the technology employed on an ongoing basis, should help publishers’ confidence as we head into 2021.