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Report: Digital advertising sees growth despite pandemic

May 26, 2021

IAB Europe, the European-level industry association for the digital advertising and marketing ecosystem, announced at its virtual Interact conference that digital advertising grew 6.3 per cent in 2020 to €69 billion.

The positive growth figure comes after a challenging year with the impact of Covid-19. Typically, advertising markets react strongly to an economic downturn, but this time digital advertising bucked the historic trend.

2020 Digital Advertising Investment

Now in its fifteenth year, The AdEx Benchmark study is a guide to advertising expenditure in Europe, covering 28 markets. In 2020, a total of 7 markets experienced double-digit year-on-year growth. Turkey was the most dynamic market posting growth of 34.8 per cent and now entering the top 10 European markets in terms of advertising spend. In 2020, only three markets experienced advertising spend decline.

Measured against the severity of the Covid-19 outbreak and the subsequent economic deterioration,  even some of the largest markets like Italy, Spain, France, and the UK were posting solid performances. Germany, who was seen to navigate the Covid-19 case numbers better than most, experienced a double digit growth of 10.4 per cent in 2020.

Social and video post strongest Growth

Driven by the explosion of e-commerce, small businesses and the return of brand advertising in H2, 2020, social and video posted the strongest growth across all channels. Social grew by 15.9 per cent with video growing by an impressive 16.3 per cent. Meanwhile, display grew by 9.1 per cent with search experiencing a 7.9 per cent increase.

New Audio Data available for 2020

Whilst the audio market remains small, coming in at just under 1 per cent of the digital advertising market, it still represents an overall value of €500 million. For the first time in the AdEx Benchmarking report, audio figures were included.

Townsend Feehan, CEO, IAB Europe said “Despite an inconceivably challenging year, it is really encouraging to see such positive growth in 2020. This is a testament to the people, products and services that help steer and grow the digital advertising industry, even in the most exceptional circumstances. As an industry association that aims to support digital business, we have worked extremely hard throughout 2020 to provide insights into the impact of Covid-19 on investment levels, and to support our members through these challenging times. IAB Europe remains committed to working with our members, both corporates and national IABs, to lead political representation and promote industry collaboration to deliver frameworks, standards and industry programmes that enable business to thrive in the European market. We look forward to seeing how the industry will continue to evolve and develop in 2021.”

Daniel Knapp, Chief Economist, IAB Europe, who compiled the study, added: “Digital advertising did not have a bad year in 2020, only a bad quarter. We saw rapid recovery already setting in in Q3 before double-digit growth in Q4. A strong reliance on performance channels during the height of lockdown was complemented with a fast redeployment of branding activity, in particular through digital video. The events of 2020 have fast-forwarded long-term socio-economic transformations that are altering how people consume and how companies operate. This provides a fertile ground for digital advertising and we expect the sector to accelerate its growth in 2021. ”

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