Digital Ad Spend Economy IAB

Digital ad spend accelerates 49% in the first half of 2021 to hit £10.5bn


By John Glenday, Reporter

September 29, 2021 | 3 min read

Caution and hesitation have given way to boundless optimism among digital advertisers over the first six months of the year, with new figures recording an eye-opening 49% year-on-year rise to £10.5bn.

digital growth

The IAB also cataloged the changing lifestyles of Britain’s online population, which has increased 6% since the pandemic

More impressively, the statistics chart a 42% increase versus ad spend in the first half of 2019, proving that the market is significantly outperforming its pre-pandemic baseline.

The turbocharged growth is documented by the IAB’s latest Digital Ad Spend report, which draws on data provided by PwC to record the ebb and flow of sentiment and spending. 2021’s jump is the largest ever recorded by the media company since it began biannual reporting.

Attributing the boom to a flourishing e-commerce market, improving production logistics and light at the end of the lockdown tunnel, the IAB also cataloged the changing lifestyles of Britain’s online population, which has increased 6% since the start of the pandemic – driven by the over 75s, where the proportion online surged 43%.

IAB UK’s chief executive officer Jon Mew commented: “The pandemic forced businesses to either accelerate or improve their e-commerce offering to cater to a nation of housebound consumers – we saw three years of change take place in just three months. Advertisers in turn adopted a more digital-heavy strategy as it was the medium least impacted by lockdown. Meanwhile, the surge in video spend runs parallel to an explosion in short-form video content and a move from advertisers to harness this as a vehicle for effective brand building.”

Search remains the most significant digital channel, rising a further 49% year-on-year to £5.5bn, but the video segment of the display market also performed strongly with growth of 70% year-on-year to £2.3bn.

Reduced freedoms saw many seek solace in their mobile devices, fueling a whopping 75% year-on-year rise in mobile ad spend – ensuring that 64% of all digital investment now falls on the sector.

Moreover, the steep performance of the digital advertising sector shows no sign of easing, with the largest upward revision of marketing budgets since the first quarter of 2019 taking place in the second quarter of 2021 – indicating that the remainder of the year will continue recent trends following a £7.3bn uptick in the first half of 2019.

Digital Ad Spend Economy IAB

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