So far in 2017 – despite economic uncertainty and deepening trust issues - the digital advertising industry has shown itself to be remarkably resilient.

A number of studies have indicated that advertising budgets are proving extremely robust. In the past couple of months alone, IAB Europe’s AdEx Benchmark study found that online advertising in Europe grew 12.2% to pass the €40 billion mark. And the most recent IPA Bellwether report highlighted improved financial prospects and continued growth for the industry. It seems marketers across the board are sustaining and growing their advertising budgets and directing ever more into digital formats. Just a couple of weeks ago a WFA and Ebiquity report revealed two-thirds of big brands are committed to increasing investment in digital advertising, some by as much as 40%.

So far, so positive. But this narrative of growth is disguising a more complex story – and potentially papering over some big cracks.

Our flagship study, DIMENSION, which surveyed 5,000 adults and 40 industry leaders from around the world, highlighted serious concerns about how advertising is targeted and measured and exposed the very real danger that advertisers are permanently damaging the consumer/brand relationship.

Consumers are actually predisposed to tolerate the role of advertising in their lives; 68% of all respondents in our study said they actively like or accept advertising. But the way in which they are currently advertised to is putting this tolerance under huge pressure. A significant 74% of consumers in the UK claim to have seen the same advert over and over again, and almost half (41%) said they consistently see online advertising that has no relevance to them.

Digital advertising as a whole is lagging behind traditional formats in consumers’ eyes; those we surveyed felt much more positive about traditional media such as TV and magazines. Of UK respondents, 33% said they actively dislike seeing advertising on online video services and search engines, while 30% dislike being served ads in news and articles online. Compare this to the far lower levels - 13% and 14% - of consumers that dislike seeing ads in newspapers and printed magazines.

You might expect that the more developed the advertising market – and the greater the opportunity to make ads feel relevant and inspiring – the more positive consumers would be about advertising. The opposite is actually the case. We surveyed consumers in the UK, US, France, Brazil and China, and it was those in the UK and US that were most likely to feel jaded about their relationship with advertising.

At the heart of this problem is a lack of robust measurement standards that communications planners can use to connect what brands want to achieve with what consumers want to see.

If we’re to see tangible change, the industry must prioritise creating consistent, comparable measures that give advertisers and planners the ability to understand how their ads are deployed on digital platforms. Many of the industry leaders we spoke to aren’t able to independently measure or analyse the success of their adverts across different platforms – and there’s only so long we can expect brands to continue ploughing money into an investment that they can’t assess the return on.

This is why, we at Kantar Media, are calling for the digital advertising industry to come together and solve these problems. Failure to do so means consumer attitudes to brand engagement will be permanently damaged, causing the industry to contract as advertisers lose confidence in the effectiveness of their ad spend. Proctor & Gamble’s threat to pull digital advertising spend could be just the tip of the iceberg.


By Richard Poustie, UK CEO at Kantar Media

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