Digital ads return two-fold ROI for Unilever says IAB UK amid ongoing efficiency drive

Persil's 'Extraordinary Powers' ad

On average, for every £1 Unilever and Nestlé spend on display ads in the UK both brands return almost double in sales, according to data from the Internet Advertising Bureaux (IAB UK).

The figures come as a year of FMCG digital efficiency drives and agency reviews draws to a close, with the IAB claiming that every £1 spent on digital display units yields a typical ROI of £1.94 across all major British supermarkets.

The study tracked the programmatic display advertising of nine consumer goods brands including Persil, Magnum, Tropicana, PG Tips and Nescafe across a number of premium sites like the Guardian, Mail Online, Yahoo and Gumtree.

Though it didn’t specify the breakdowns for individual brand ROI, it noted that one brand it monitored saw a £3.38 ROI for every £1 it invested.

The research was completed over a year-long period, comparing display spend with short-term sales numbers gleaned from i2c – a joint venture between Sainsbury’s and Nectar card owner Aimia – and Nielsen’s Homescan data. The resulting data, which was commissioned by i2c and the IAB gives an insight into the shopping behaviour at all major UK supermarkets.

The study comes amid an ongoing efficiency drive from Unilever, which this year decided to run 30% fewer ads as part of a wider cost-cutting exercise to improve efficiency. The brand has said it also intends to reduce the number of agencies it has (around 3,000) in half.

Its arch rival P&G has also been culling "ineffective" digital ads, noting earlier this year that rollbacks of around $140m had not impacted the company's bottom line as it delivered strong growth in the first half of the year.

According to the IAB’s chief digital officer Tim Elkington, the "vast majority" of sales attributable to group's study happened in-store.

“The calibre and range of the brands involved in the project gives marketers a reassuring guide as to what their investment in digital will pay back," he said.

All of the online ads tracked carried a Sainsbury’s logo which Elkington says illustrated the “halo effect” that store-branded advertising can have on sales in other supermarkets.

The study also revealed that online ads also had a positive effect on people’s awareness of and favourability towards the brand in question, noting that people who saw the ads were 12% more likely to consider the brand to be 'premium'.

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