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UK: Programmatic ads outperform direct buys for the first time

The latest Integral Ad Science Media Quality Report provides UK benchmarks for viewability, brand safety, and ad fraud across all digital environments and channels.

Integral Ad Science (IAS), the data and solutions provider for the digital ad industry, has released its Media Quality Report for H2 2018, providing insights into the performance of digital media across the UK.

The report reveals that for the first time, programmatic viewability rates out-performed publisher direct buys across desktop and mobile web display. During H2 2018, 69.1% of programmatic UK desktop display ads met the minimum viewability standards*, rising by 8.2% from 63.4% in H1 2018. This is compared to a rise of only 3.9% for publisher direct ads, which rose from 65.1% to 67.7%.

At a glance highlights:

  1. Programmatic outperforms direct buys: Publishers and their tech providers are catching up with the demand for higher standards for programmatic inventory from the buy side. Although impressions sourced via publisher direct channels traditionally offer higher viewability — and still do in video — programmatic narrowed the viewability gap and even overtook in some environments.
  2. Video drives increased time-in-view: Video campaign impressions surpassed both desktop and mobile web for the length of time-in-view. When looking at impressions sourced via programmatic channels, video impressions drove the highest time-in-view rate, at 14.7 seconds, providing the greatest opportunity to fully capture UK consumer attention.
  3. Ad fraud impacts 1% of UK desktop display buys: Ad fraud affects up to 1% of UK desktop display impressions. According to IAB UK’s latest ad spend results, display spend has reached £2.3 billion— ad fraud then has the potential to impact up to £23 million of UK advertising spend. Fraud can increase during the second half of the year as fraudsters are attracted to the lucrative holiday shopping period.
  4. Brand risk continues to fall, but risk in video increases: Brand risk in the UK reduced by 28.9% over the second half of 2018 for desktop display. This mirrors results from the first half of the year, where risk decreased 22.4%. However, video impressions did experience a slight rise, up by 12.5%, which means 1 in every 10 UK video impressions was flagged for appearing next to content that could pose a risk to a brand’s image or reputation.

Nick Morley, EMEA MD at Integral Ad Science, comments: “Findings from the H2 2018 Media Quality Report demonstrate the major shift towards programmatic trading, with the term ‘programmatic’ no longer associated with lower quality inventory. This is likely due in part to an increase in publishers utilising programmatic to sell valuable inventory, via private marketplaces (PMPs).”

Morley continues: “Thanks to increasing budget flowing to digital, advertisers are demanding greater quality and maximised impact from their entire media plan.”

Integral Ad Science’s H2 2018 UK Media Quality Report analysed data from hundreds of billions of UK impressions, from advertising campaigns that ran between July 1st and December 31st 2018. The full report can be viewed at:

*Viewability is determined for display and mobile ads as 50% of the ad unit in view for one continuous second, large display ad formats as 30% of the ad unit in view for one continuous second, and video ads as 50% of the ad unit in view for two continuous seconds as per MRC standards