Programmatic Video Advertising in the UK

The State of How Programmatic Video Advertising Works: UK Edition

Is YouTube programmatic? We sat down with our Key Accounts Manager in the UK, Juliet McCutcheon to talk about programmatic video advertising in the UK. Having previously worked as Sales Manager at Amobee EMEA, Juliet brings extensive agency background in digital planning and buying from her roles at OMD International and OMD Ireland. She works closely with the UK agencies to drive awareness of Channel Factory’s unique solution and develop the UK roadmap. You can connect with Juliet on LinkedIn here.

How Important is YouTube to the UK Consumer?

One word: essential. In fact, I’d like to turn it on its head a little and say it’s clear that the UK is crucial to the UK YouTube consumer! Based on our proprietary technology platform ViewIQ, the 20 most viewed channels in the UK for October include the official channels for the BBC, Coldplay, Queen and Britain’s Got Talent. It’s great to know the UK is supporting our own homegrown talent!

The fact is that YouTube is killing it! Almost two-thirds of the UK population is on YouTube (comprising 72% of all internet users in the country) and viewer growth is on target to grow between 1 and 2% YOY over the next 4 years. According to Q4 2018 data from AudienceProject, YouTube was the platform used by the largest majority of digital video viewers for watching digital video content. Cited by 87% of respondents, it was well ahead of Facebook (65%) and the BBC (44%) in second and third, respectively.

YouTube has the 3rd most platform visits just behind Amazon at number two and parent company Google at number one. YouTube ranks just behind Spotify on streaming music, beating out iTunes and Amazon Music. YouTube and Facebook are neck and neck at commanding 79% of 18+ UK adults using the platform, with all other social media platforms significantly far behind. 

Taking all this into account, it is abundantly clear that YouTube is a channel that just cannot be ignored by marketers and Channel Factory unlocks this inventory; delivering brand safe and brand suitable inventory for brands.

What’s a key digital video consumption trend in the UK?

People are spending less time watching traditional linear TV and that shortfall is being made up for on digital.  While mobile usage is a less dominant force in UK consumption habits, connected TV is the major device trend; with reach rising to 34.7 million users in 2019. It’s worth noting VOD has become a huge area of growth; with multiple players across the digital first OTT space, FTA as well as pay TV broadcasters are getting involved and experimenting with their offerings. 

What does the UK’s digital advertising landscape look like?

We’re seeing massive investment in the UK in digital spend and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first display ad, digital video ad spend will account for half of all display ad spending in 2020, and it’ll eclipse all others formats by 2023. Ad spend on social networks is set to more than double from £2.81 to £6.18 billion by 2021 and expect to see influencer marketing spend double in line with this. 

That said, the latest IPA Bellwether Report showed that UK marketing budgets fell for the first time in seven years in Q3 2019 over political uncertainty surrounding Brexit. The uptick in digital investment represents a consolidation of marketing efforts, and the challenges to come will center around developing smart ways to use less data., As we enter the cookie-less gauntlet, brands are looking to develop more robust metrics for measuring the value of brand building and of attributing values to contextual signals.

What’s hot in programmatic right now?

In the UK, 71% of UK brands are programmatically active, above the 65 percent European average. 88% of UK brands have taken programmatic in-house either partially or fully to drive cost efficiency, audience targeting, and campaign effectiveness. Of course, retaining the right talent is key and with brand suitability challenges still a very clear and present danger, the short-term savings of this consolidation might be overshadowed if teams aren’t up to speed on the necessary media planning nuance. As a result, more and more brands are seeking outside advice – not just on brand safety issues, but also to embrace the new contextual targeting normal as the digital cookie crumbles.

How are advertisers responding to data privacy regulation?

The news isn’t all bad. Market demand was such that ad spending actually increased in the eight months following GDPR inception, softening the regulation’s highly anticipated blow. Another side-effect of GDPR is the good-faith that it is  generating among UK consumers and the resulting data quality improvement derived from more precise verification of consumers who consent to being tracked and reported. 

However, time will tell and we are at a pivotal point where companies in the digital ad tech landscape are under pressure to be fully compliant with the new regulations. As with any new regulation, enforcement of breaches takes time to reach critical mass and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is still finding its legs and processing an enormous backlog of investigations. 

What is abundantly clear is that consumer trust is vital to brand-reputation and the bottom line; and less invasive forms of behavioural, cookie-based targeting are making a serious comeback. Brands are turning to the videos and the media environments themselves for signals of audience context and consumption choice. Ultimately content and context have as much, if not more of an effect on consumer receptiveness to advertising than their prior online click-habits; and that’s where advertisers are focusing their efforts.

How seriously do UK advertisers take brand safety? What types of strategies do they adopt? 

Very seriously – after all, brand safety affects reputation, performance and the bottom-line. According to a report by UK based media consultancy Ebiquity, almost 65% of Britain’s top 100 advertisers were exposed to potentially brand unsafe environments in the first quarter of 2019 alone. eCommerce and pharmaceutical brands were found to be the most at risk from brand unsafe adjacencies. 

In a recent survey we conducted of UK advertisers, we found that advertisers were very concerned to avoid running ads against content featuring racist, sexist, or violent themes. When we asked more specific questions about certain types of political content, UK brands saw content featuring fascism and polarizing social issues as posing serious reputational risk. 

Major global brands have been vocal about taking brand safety seriously and putting strategies in place either in-house, via their agencies or specialist vendors. The strategies we’re seeing brands adopt include evolving beyond static blacklists and whitelists in the direction of highly customized, curated media-environment building, including tailored, private-marketplaces. It’s beginning to dawn on brands with multi-market consumers that each country has to have its own specific strategy – not least of all because of linguistic variations – which is a positive development indeed.

Are there any specific brand unsafe trends in the UK that would be overlooked by a broader, more global approach to brand safety?

Frankly, the list is endless, and it speaks to the importance of monitoring people, places and things at the country level on a daily basis and updating media strategies in real-time. Local market nuances are hugely important, especially in a market like the UK! What is deemed as brand safe or brand suitable here could be very different to our friends across the pond or even our European neighbours. For example, with the current political situation being as supercharged as it is and lines between centre/extreme becoming increasingly blurred, it is vital that brands/agencies have the most up to date localised knowledge when it comes to inclusion/exclusion listing, to avoid running on potentially undesirable content.

When it comes to languages, of course a local approach is vital to ensure brand safety. Here in the UK, the Scottish, English, Welsh and Irish would all be proud to tell you their own unique list of swear words you wouldn’t find anywhere else in the world! 

Interestingly, while our survey found that advertisers in the US and the EU have almost identical aversions to profanity, the US consumer has a very different opinion. Researchers from the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) assessed data from an American streaming website called VidAngel, which is no longer operative, and found that 29% of American users of the service would have censored what they considered to be offensive “British profanity.” 

A global approach to brand safety can’t make exceptions on a market by market basis and certainly not for an individual brand. 

As programmatic moves in-house, it’s important for brands to weigh the cost of this kind of vigilance and develop local brand suitability strategies with local language as well as local cultural factors accounted for.

Any predictions for 2020?

Expectations are that in 2020 brand safety and more importantly, brand suitability will be front of marketers minds as they battle to safeguard their brands’ reputations. The recent Channel Factory Brand Suitability Survey outlined the extent to which unsuitable placements can cause significant and measurable damage to brands. The start of 2020 will see a move forward ( or backward) on Brexit and at this volatile political time, brands need to have a robust brand suitability strategy in place to ensure they have the tech to handle every eventuality. 

It will no longer be acceptable to simply say that you have signed up to best practices – you will need to prove that you have tools in place that have the capability to ensure both brand safety and brand suitability for buyers. Brands will be setting stricter enforcement and expectations to see more than just processes in place; real evidence that their valuable spend is protected will become the norm.