UK programmatic adspend nears £1bn

Almost half of online display ads in 2014 – worth just under £1 billion – were bought through ‘programmatic’ technologies, according to the second annual industry study quantifying how UK digital display advertising is traded.

See the research here

The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) UKs “Media Owner Sales Techniques” study, conducted by research and strategy consultancy MTM, reveals that of the £2.13 billion¹ spent on display ads across the internet and mobile in 2014, 45% (£960 million) was traded programmatically – up from 28% in 2013.

‘Programmatic’ – which refers to ads bought and sold using automated systems and processes such as real-time bidding – was narrowly behind direct sales between publishers and buyers (49% share of display ad sales). Only 6% were bought through ad networks (down from 22%).

E.g. 49% of all digital display ads in 2014 were purchased directly

Programmatic accounts for two-thirds of mobile ad sales

Programmatic’s share of mobile ad sales has nearly doubled from 37% in 2013 to 64% in 2014. “Programmatic’s role in digital ad buying has grown from virtually zero to nearly half of all transactions in just five years,” says Tim Elkington, Chief Strategy Officer at the UK’s Internet Advertising Bureau. “However, the impact on mobile has been even greater due to its more fragmented ecosystem providing a ripe breeding ground for intermediaries.”

Nearly one fifth (18%) of video ads are now traded programmatically. “Some still consider programmatic primarily as a direct-response tool. However, its increasing role in video ads – a branding medium like TV – shows programmatic is on advertising’s top table,” notes Elkington. “Consequently, due to the rise in mobile and video ad spend, we estimate around 70-80% of all digital spend will be programmatic by 2018.”

E.g. 24% of all digital display ads in 2014 were purchased using programmatic-direct technologies

Stephen Adshead, Associate Director at MTM, says: “When it comes to which advertisers are most advanced in the use of programmatic, the general perception among media owners is that online retailers, telecoms and finance brands are allocating the highest proportion of display spend to programmatic."

Notes to editors


MTM's figures are based on detailed submissions from 31 companies, supplemented by a further 27 in-depth interviews and group discussions with industry participants. These were analysed and synthesised with the annual IAB/PwC Digital Adspend data.

¹Source: IAB/PwC Digital Adspend report 2014 excluding affiliate advertising