UK leads the way as half of all media spend goes digital in 2015, but what are the implications for advertisers on mobile?

By Paul Thompson | managing director

April 7, 2015 | 7 min read

This year the UK will become the first country in the world where half of all advertising spend goes on digital media, according to eMarketer’s recent findings.

Just over £16.2bn will be spent on all forms of advertising in the UK this year, including TV, newspapers, outdoor, radio, online and on mobiles and tablets, according to eMarketer. Digital advertising is expected to grow by 12 percent in 2015 to £8.1bn, making the UK the first country in which £1 in every £2 will go on digital media.

That’s an incredible achievement and highlights the UK’s place as one of the world’s leading and most dynamic digital economies.

And of course it is the rapid adoption of mobile advertising that is driving this fast pace of change within the UK’s historically strong advertising sector. Indeed with UK smartphone penetration now heading north of 81 percent, and with more than 50 per cent of all internet traffic coming from mobile devices, the UK is set to play a major role for years to come in shaping global digital advertising across the landscape of creative, data analytics and advertising technologies.

Looking to 2015/15, UK mobile advertising is forecast to attract twice the investment as TV. Mobile has become the screen that consumers spend the most time with so it is no surprise that advertising spend is following.

Global trend

Of course the UK advertising market is significantly smaller than the US advertising market which still remains dominated by TV – in this case the smaller UK market means it is more open to innovation and the adoption of new channels and technologies to reach increasingly fragmented audiences.

Globally, digital accounts for 29.6 per cent and about 31 per cent in the US. The comparison between the US and UK is interesting in demonstrating how quickly the UK and its traditionally strong advertising industry has embraced online advertising and rapidly adopted mobile advertising. This combined with the UK’s very high penetration of smartphones – which account for 81 per cent of mobile devices – makes it a hotbed for digital advertising.

The vast majority of the growth is coming from the UK’s ever-deepening relationship with its portable devices like smartphones and tablets. Within the overall digital category, ad spend on mobile devices will rise 45 perc ent this year to £3.3bn.

Mobile first

For advertisers, this represents a considerable opportunity for brand and performance digital marketing on mobile screens. But agencies need to pick their mobile adtech and big data partners carefully.

At Blis, we think that mobile has already become our default 'first screen'. It is the channel that provides advertisers location and content behavioural data from which to hone audience insights and greater accuracy when targeting consumers

As technology advances, people change with it. According to Forrester’s report, Untangle the Mobile Advertising Vendor Landscape, published last December, 81 per cent of US online adults with smartphones, access the internet through their mobile device at least once a day. It has become more important than ever for advertisers to reach their target audience, on the move, in real-world locations.

Do the data right

To do this, richer, multi-layered sets of data are required to provide information on location, history, demographics and other information sources that enable advertisers to serve the right ad, to the right audience, at the right time.

However, agencies and advertisers must be clear about their adtech partner strategies for brand and performance marketing on mobile – not all adtech companies are the same as the Forrester report makes clear.

We believe similar people, go to similar places and are likely to have similar attitudes to specific advertisements. To achieve smart insights, it is important to gather the right information. Location data is very powerful, once refined – it is crucial in understanding, segmenting, contextualising, and predicting customer behaviour. But agency adtech partners must know how to process this raw data to transform it into relevant, ‘smart’ information.

Navigating the adtech landscape

In order to understand an adtech provider’s core capabilities, marketers must find out how their mobile and tech capabilities were built. There are numerous providers that specialise in desktop that have moved into mobile. But their multiplication has made it difficult for marketers to understand who offers what, and select the best vendor for their mobile marketing campaigns.

While many providers have transitioned into mobile by simply adding mobile inventory rather than mobile-optimising their services, other providers have ‘emerged’, by being built from the ground up, mobile-first.

It is very difficult for agencies to verify in detail what their adtech provider’s technology can actually do so they are operating largely on faith. Lots of people who sell adtech solutions simply choose to just ‘rubbish’ their competitor’s offerings. Tactics like these are extremely unprofessional and erode trust in the market. Fraud is being committed, however, and some companies are telling agencies that they are buying programmatically when in fact they are buying manually off networks by phone.

Agencies are starting to recruit tech people who understand the adtech landscape better, but in reality, it’s not the agency’s job to authenticate technology – they should just be applying it.

Adtech provider should be open about their technology claims. They should let agencies come in and see platforms working, meet the engineering teams and show them IP patents and R&D budgets filed with HMRC. It’s a fast-moving world and there’s a lot of innovation going on – we need to help agencies cut through the misinformation and show them we are doing it right for them.

Paul Thompson is managing director EMEA at BlisMedia


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