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How has video advertising fared in 2020?

By Dom Tillson, Head of Industry Initiatives



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November 19, 2020 | 5 min read

Since the start of the first lockdown in March, it’s fair to say that it’s been a challenging year for the advertising industry - digital media included. With the pandemic causing a huge degree of economic turmoil, companies have had to adapt to uncertainty and embrace new ways of doing things. For advertisers, part of this has meant reviewing their media strategies to suit changing consumer habits.


As a whole, digital advertising has proved pretty resilient so far - IAB UK’s H1 2020 Adspend update shows that total digital advertising spend dipped by just 5% in the first six months of the year - with some sectors faring better than others. Significantly, video advertising has bucked the trend, reporting 5.7% growth to £1.35bn in the first half of 2020.

So what’s fuelling the growth of video? We at IAB UK have worked with our Video Steering Group and YouGov to further explore the story behind the numbers - surveying 499 marketing decision-makers about their use of digital video advertising during the UK’s first nationwide lockdown in spring 2020.

The results show that a third increased spend on online video advertising in lockdown 1.0, with larger, London based companies driving this trend. Outstream and video on demand were the formats most likely to attract increased investment. Significantly, those that increased video spend benefitted from an online audience increase, particularly on social media and video streaming platforms. Top benefits of increasing online video spend during lockdown including increased sales, greater reach and a boost to brand awareness.

For those companies that reduced their ad spend in the first lockdown, the results show that video investment was the least impacted compared to other online and traditional media. Unsurprisingly given the economic climate, cost was cited as the biggest barrier to spending on online video.

However, it’s clear that video advertising is proving to be a successful solution for many marketers in 2020 as a highly engaging format that allows brands to merge the emotional and rational capabilities of digital via creative storytelling. As Jennifer Bunting, LinkedIn’s head of EMEA product marketing, puts it: “This research shows that video is a critical format for marketers in the UK to build and maintain connections between brands and audiences – especially when physical connections are not possible. ”With so many of us online - particularly at this time - video is allowing brands to stay visible and relevant.

According to Alex Khan, group MD at Unruly, the increase in video ad spend is a great example of “how resilient the digital advertising industry is and reflects a huge, collaborative effort to innovate and deliver flexible solutions to enable brands and publishers to make smart marketing decisions”. In his view, the strengths of video advertising - “scale, precision and high engagement” - are core opportunities for advertisers.

“During H1, we’ve seen many of our clients leverage our real-time emotional insights to understand changes in audience behaviour and adapt the targeting strategy and creative to continue to reach their most engaged audiences”, Khan explains. “From a longer-term perspective, our CTV research revealed almost a quarter (21%) of UK consumers tried a new ad-supported streaming service between March and July, and, of those, 74% will continue to do so. This will create more opportunities for brands to reach consumers and will fuel a continued rise in video ad spend.”

Also commenting on the insight, Austin Scott head of EMEA video market development at Xandr, advises that “brands will need to consider and understand what people are doing with the extra time online so that they can still reach these consumers with relevancy. We have proven as an industry that we are adaptable and the great thing about digital video advertising is that it has become, and will continue to be, an effective intersection between brand storytelling, viewer preferences and action.”

With a second lockdown now in place throughout the country, our research shows that video is delivering for advertisers that are looking for reach, impact and to drive measurable results during this period of social distancing. There are numerous opportunities facing the video sector - not least how to evolve the rising star of Connected TV and merge digital specialists with traditional linear TV buyers. Negotiating this evolution, along with the pandemic fuelled change in consumer behaviour, leaves video poised to benefit from further growth and new opportunities in the coming months and years.

Take a look at IAB UK’s video ad spend research here.

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