Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

AA/WARC Expenditure Report Q2 2021: Industry Reaction

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UK ad spend is on course to grow by almost 25% this year – a percentage that would represent the largest annual rise in spend since records began. And this will be driven by the highest-ever recorded spend during the Christmas advertising season.

We reached out to a collection of industry executives to get their thoughts. Here’s what they had to say:

Mike Butler, Agency Lead, Northern Europe, Xandr

“It is really great to see the strong growth figures across the advertising industry as the sector bounces back from the pandemic.

“With the AA/WARC spend report highlighting growth in search and display across the Ecommerce platforms and a rebound for out of home and cinema I am looking forward to seeing what 2022 brings for the industry.”

Dominic Woolfe, CEO, Azerion UK

“These results are extremely encouraging, especially from a UK perspective.

With the festive season fast approaching and consumer behaviours changing due to lockdown restrictions being lifted, Christmas ad spend is expected to be at an all time high. As consumer shopping habits change and concerns remain about supply chain issues, brands need to ensure they start early with their advertising in the lead up to the festive season.

Given how cluttered the market will be in Q4, creativity and bravery will determine who manages to stand out from the crowd in the run up to Christmas.”

Darren Savage, Chief Strategy Officer, Tribal Worldwide

“The pandemic accelerated many trends – like it or not, many more businesses have crossed the digital Rubicon. But the real question moving forward will be about longevity, it will be interesting to see which of the pandemic trends for shopping continue as we move into a post-pandemic economy, and which will revert back.

“From the figures, investment in ecommerce is expected to continue growing. So, we could be heading for the day of reckoning for those organisations who failed to think and act strategically. The organisations which chose to chase short-term optimisation in developing strong CX, part of which is providing excellent eCommerce and ‘blended retail’ experiences will lose out to those which invested in their customer and the future of their business.”

Lina Adelt, Head of Marketing, A Million Ads

“After the impact of the pandemic last year, it’s brilliant to see that UK ad spend this year is predicted to grow by 24.8%.

“The report shows that total investment for advertisers in Q4 2021 is expected to be the highest level ever recorded, therefore brands have the chance to take advantage of this and create more personal experiences for their consumers, using mediums such as dynamic video ads.

“Dynamic video allows brands to tailor their messaging specifically to individual consumers, allowing them to adapt messaging to connect with consumers on a personal level. Brands can tap into contextual data points such as the music consumers are listening to, what time of day it is and what the weather is like to resonate more with audiences and improve brand awareness and purchase intent. With ad spend set to grow to a record £7.9bn this festive season, dynamic video advertising provides an excellent opportunity for advertisers to create engaging and meaningful experiences for consumers.”

Justin Taylor, UK MD, Teads

“The latest AA/WARC report suggests UK ad spend is expected to grow by an incredible 24.8% this year. This means that brands have to fight harder than ever to grab consumers’ attention and stand out from the crowd. Brands will need to focus on investing in quality media partners to ensure their target audiences are receiving positive messages in the right way.

“With the UK on course to achieve the fastest ad trade recovery of any other European market this year, brands also must continue to take learnings from the pandemic in order to see this through. Agility will remain key, as many consumers will continue to rely on online shopping. Brands will need to bear in mind that, with another uncertain holiday season ahead, inspiration and confidence in messaging will be key if consumers are to spend once again.”

Leigh Gammons, EMEA CEO, Wunderman Thompson Technology

“The data clearly reflects the positivity surrounding the reopening of stores and relaxation of restrictions, and I’m incredibly encouraged by the increased customer spending activity. Now that customers are spending more time out and about, businesses need to be delivering seamless, omnichannel customer journeys – and this requires marketing spend across multiple media channels. However, the uplift in spend on search advertising also suggests that not all of the diverted online spending will revert to stores.

“It’s no surprise, therefore, that other media channels, are making a significant recovery as leading businesses focus on effective strategies to reach and engage with new and returning customers. As well as working to fuel dynamic customer experiences, brands should be focusing on efficient data tracking in order to measure growth in engagement via their digital experience, and prove marketing/ad spend return on investment within the organisation.

“Though these findings are positive, an important lesson learned over the past 18 months is that anything can happen. In order to stay ahead of the competition in 2022, brands should remember their learnings from the previous year to ensure that engagement is not lost if there is another forced change in the way they interact with customers as a result of the current unpredictable climate.”

James Copley, UK CEO, Talon Outdoor

“As substantiated by the AA/WARC ad spend report, we’ve seen a strong return of ad spend into OOH (Out of Home). The momentum has been growing since the Spring and we are back to pre-Covid levels of demand across Q3 and into Q4. It’s also very encouraging to see strong demand for creative ‘specials’ spend via our Creative Solutions team, another sign of high advertiser confidence in the OOH market.”

“During 2020 and early 2021, OOH became the notice board for the country as Government messaging and words of hope and resilience from the Queen were broadcast across the medium.”

“We believe that this high-profile use of the media channel over the last 18 months has resulted in an elevated status and interest in the impact that OOH can deliver. Savvy brands understand this and are maintaining or growing their spend in OOH or using it for the first time this year.”

Nial Ferguson, Managing Director UK & Ireland, Sourcepoint

“With the AA/WARC report showing the largest annual rise on record for ad spend, the advertising industry is clearly back in action. Local and global privacy regulations continue to hamper brands’ marketing investments with enforcements risking brand loyalty, and income streams.”

“Marketers and publishers must use this time to get up to speed with evolving global privacy regulations to remain compliant, but also to overturn years of fragmentation and opacity which has led to consumer suspicion and cynicism for the digital advertising industry. Consumers are more savvy than ever before about digital privacy, and advertisers and publishers who recognise this competitive advantage and embrace their digital responsibility will continue to thrive in 2022 and beyond”

Claire Burgess, Director of Paid Media, Incubeta

“It’s really encouraging to see the AA/WARC report showing search advertising to be one of the quickest growing media for Q4 2021. It will provide a great boost for marketers who are gearing up for this year’s unique festive period after a rocky Christmas last year.

“With this in mind, it’s key for marketers to remain agile and ready to pivot quickly in response to potential external issues. For example, current stock shortages or unpredictable footfall throughout the UK fuelled by uncertainty around local lockdowns, combined with consumers’ increasing preference to omnichannel purchasing habits can change the way marketers can reach their audiences. Using this increased spend to test throughout this period, and into 2022, will be paramount to understand the best tactics, where to invest and measure what is genuinely driving success.”

Ryan Afshar, Head of Publishers UK, LiveRamp

“The latest AA/WARC report forecasts that this year’s UK ad spend will be the largest annual rise on record at 24.8%. As Covid-19 restrictions become a distant memory, consumer spending is expected to increase in the Golden Quarter.

“With this boom in ad spend, we now have a clear opportunity to create an advertising ecosystem that prioritises privacy, empowers publishers through optimised monetisation and in turn delivers improved return on ad spend for advertisers. The best way to enable this is through authenticated, people-based, privacy-first addressability solutions.”

Xandr, Sourcepoint, Incubeta, Talon, Teads, A Million Ads, Azerion, and LiveRamp are clients of Bluestripe Communications, owned by The Bluestripe Group, publishers of NDA