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UK Mobile Spend Grows Fastest, Lags Time with Medium

Advertisers warm up slowly to mobile efforts

October 29, 2013 | Media Buying

UK mobile ad spending will be just shy of £1 billion (close to $1.59 billion) in 2013. Between now and 2017, mobile advertising will drive overall ad expenditure in the UK, growing from 16.5% of digital ad spending and 7.2% of total media spending in 2013 to 44.4% and 22.9% in 2017, respectively, according to a new eMarketer report, “UK Digital Ad Spending: Driven by Mobile, Digital Will Soon Be Half of Ad Sector.”

eMarketer forecasts that total UK mobile ad spending will increase to nearly £3.71 billion (more than $5.88 billion) in 2017—a gain of almost 271.1% from 2013. Investment in mobile advertising has already risen almost fivefold between 2011 and 2013 and is expected to grow nearly eighteenfold between 2011 and 2017.

UK Mobile Ad Spending, 2011-2017 (millions of £, % of total digital ad spending and % of total media ad spending)

Some brands have been reluctant to enter the mobile advertising space, but this problem is diminishing. eMarketer estimates that by 2017, more than one-fifth of total UK media ad investments will go toward mobile devices. August 2013 research by the UK’s Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB UK) highlighted the move to mobile, showing 11% of the top 100 UK advertisers in terms of spending had adopted responsive design for their websites, and 58% had sites designed to automatically optimize display for mobile devices.

According to May 2013 polling by mobile service provider O2 and handset maker Samsung, UK smartphone users spent just short of 2 hours per day (119 minutes) using those devices—a figure expected to increase further. To compare with other media, UK consumers spend roughly double that amount of time watching TV each day, according to Group M’s “This Year, Next Year” report. But UK ad investment does not follow these media usage patterns. eMarketer expects UK TV ad spending to total more than 3.5 times that of mobile ad spending this year—£999 million vs. approximately £3.58 billion (nearly $5.67 billion)—although this disparity will reduce to almost nothing by 2017.

Younger smartphone users remain the most engaged audience for companies advertising on mobile, with 18-to-24-year-old smartphone users overindexing on every mobile advertising activity listed in March 2013 polling by comScore MobiLens. This group particularly overindexed for reading social network posts from brands, organizations or events (56.2%, vs. 35.5% total respondents) and for web or app ad recall (38.1% vs. 26.5%).

Mobile Advertising Activities Among UK Smartphone Users, Ages 18-24 vs. Total, March 2013 (% of respondents in each group)

Historically, UK-based agencies have not had much confidence moving to mobile. But research released in February 2013 by the IAB UK showed an increasing proportion of media agencies with a good understanding of the major mobile technologies needed to run campaigns. In 2008, 72% of UK agency respondents placed themselves in the 2-to-5 range on a 10-point scale, where 1 represented “no understanding” and 10 an “expert” level of understanding mobile advertising. By 2012, the situation had improved, with 70% of respondents putting themselves in the 4-to-7 range and another 12% ranking themselves in the 8-to-10 bracket.

Predictably, the proportion of digital ad budgets spent on mobile also increased during that period. The IAB UK found that 33% of UK agencies devoted at least 11% of their digital ad money to mobile in 2012, compared with just 6% in 2009.


The full report, “UK Digital Ad Spending: Driven by Mobile, Digital Will Soon Be Half of Ad Sector,” also answers these key questions:

  • What is driving UK digital advertising spending?
  • Why is video advertising proving so popular?
  • How are agencies and clients adapting to mobile advertising?

This report is available to eMarketer corporate subscription clients only. eMarketer clients, log in and view the report now.


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