Advertising Guest Columns
3 mins read

How the ad budget bomb will impact publishers in the second half of 2021

In May 2020 almost nine in 10 major brands had halted their spending on advertising as they stood back to watch the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact on publishers was immediate, dramatic, and alarming as marketers rushed to stop their brands appearing alongside negative stories relating to the crisis and rein in spending ahead of expected reduction in consumer activity.

While the first half of 2021 has seen fluid government restrictions on our lifestyles, advertisers have switched their approach from cancellation to hesitation; the budgets are still there and waiting to be spent as the economy returns to growth.

Consumers are hungry to spend, and brands are poised to place ads to entice them. Many brands have held off spending their advertising budget in the first two quarters of the year, instead planning to spend the entire budget across the second half of the year. This is being dubbed the “budget bomb”.

But what does this mean for publishers? At Quantcast, we work with a wide range of publishers and brands and they’re telling us that ad-spending bomb will have an industry-wide impact in Q3 and Q4. Here’s how I see the changes affecting publishers.

Feel good factor events

Firstly, several large summer events will offer great opportunities for the advertising world. The recent Euros and the Tokyo Olympics are global television events, and the British and Irish Lions Tour will be held in South Africa. More locally, tennis champions returned to the courts at Wimbledon, and whether you love it or hate it, Love Island is once again on our screens. While this is great news for brands that want to advertise around these cultural and social moments, it will have knock effects for publishers. Consumers will be looking for the latest scores, information, and gossip and they’ll be heading online and visiting publisher websites more frequently.

Greater demand will increase inventory prices

If more consumers visit publisher sites every day, the demand for ad space is likely to increase. Brands have a years’ budget to spend within six months, so it’s likely that they won’t hold back and will be placing as many ads as possible. In turn, publishers should begin to feel confident they will sell their inventory and begin to soak up the financial benefits of this.

Demand for more options outside the walled gardens

With the UK ad market expected to be the second highest for growth in 2021 during the second half of the year, advertisers will be looking for opportunities to reach audiences online outside Facebook and Google. With more people online spending money, publishers will be able to maximise the return of their advertising inventory.

Huge opportunity for tech-savvy publishers

AI and automation will make all these elements simpler, as machine learning can help advertisers understand their changing audiences, allowing them to respond to micro-trends and even events by serving targeted advertising. Micro trends are hard to observe or predict, but they can have a huge impact on sales and machine learning can respond to changes in audience behavior at speed and at scale. Publishers with granular machine-learning driven insights into their audiences will be best placed to react to these trends and secure budgets.

With consumers ready to spend and brands ready to place ads, the second half of 2021 will be considerably more lucrative for publishers than the first.

Matt White
Vice President, Quantcast

Quantcast is an audience intelligence and measurement company headquartered in San Francisco. Combining machine learning, a privacy-by-design approach, and live data drawn from more than 100 million online destinations, Quantcast provides software, information and advertising services for marketers, publishers and advertising agencies worldwide. Founded in 2006, Quantcast has employees in 20 offices across 10 countries.