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UK Programmatic Digital Display Advertising Outlook 2021

Pandemic Accelerates Trend Toward Advertiser Control

About This Report
Programmatic ad spending will account for 93.6% of total UK display ad spending this year, or £7.90 billion ($10.09 billion). Open exchanges, though, will account for a diminishing proportion of that total; spend declined 2.4% in 2020.
Table of Contents

Executive Summary

The pandemic put a dent—albeit a small one—in the projected growth rate for UK programmatic display ad spending. But strong growth is expected in 2021, as automation’s reach extends into traditional channels. However, trust in open exchanges is diminishing.

How much will be spent on UK programmatic advertising in 2021?

UK programmatic display ad spending will reach £7.90 billion ($10.09 billion) in 2021, up 16.4% from 2020 to account for 93.6% of total display ad spending.

How did the pandemic affect our forecasts?

Our pre-pandemic UK programmatic digital display ad spending growth estimate for 2020 (17.5%) was revised downward in October to 9.4%.

What have been the underlying drivers for these changes?

During the pandemic, consumers leaned into a lot of digital media. Advertisers took advantage and employed automation wherever they could. Digital video performed incredibly well, while the strength of social media advertising meant that programmatic direct’s influence was keenly felt. Outside of social media, open exchanges came under pressure, with 2020 ad spending in public auctions falling 2.4% as advertisers sought greater control and certainty through programmatic direct and private marketplace (PMP) buys.

Which nascent areas will affect future growth?

Digital out-of-home (DOOH) advertising is making the move to automation, though from a very small base. Connected TV (CTV), meanwhile, represents one of the biggest growth areas for programmatic display advertising.

WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? This report presents our updated forecast for UK programmatic digital display ad spending through 2022. It provides context for how the programmatic market is growing across transaction types, formats, and devices.

KEY STAT: UK programmatic ad spending rode out the 2020 storm and will grow strongly through 2022 to reach £9.01 billion ($11.50 billion).

Here’s what’s in the full report


Exportable files for easy reading, analysis and sharing.


Reliable data in simple displays for presentations and quick decision making.

19expert perspectives

Insights from industry and company leaders.

    Table of Contents

    1. Executive Summary
    2. Total Programmatic Ad Spending
    3. Spending by Transaction Type
    4. Spending by Device
    1. Spending by Format
    2. Programmatic DOOH Ad Spending
    3. Key Takeaways
    4. Insider Intelligence Interviews
    1. Read Next
    2. Media Gallery

    Charts in This Report

    Interviewed for This Report

    Akshay Bhattacharjee
    Integral Ad Science
    Programmatic Solutions Specialist, EMEA
    Interviewed September 23, 2020
    Will Brownsdon
    UK Managing Director
    Interviewed September 23, 2020
    Pierce Cook-Anderson
    Smart AdServer
    Country Manager, Northern Europe
    Interviewed September 23, 2020
    Eliette Cremer
    Space & Time
    Programmatic Lead
    Interviewed September 22, 2020
    Emma Delserieys
    Director, Customer Success and Attribution, EMEA
    Interviewed September 21, 2020
    Laura Fordham
    Control v Exposed
    Director, Business Strategy and Development
    Interviewed September 30, 2020
    Alison Harding
    Vice President, Data Solutions, EMEA
    Interviewed September 21, 2020
    Lucy Hinton
    Head of Client Operations
    Interviewed September 18, 2020
    Richard Johnson
    Interviewed September 21, 2020
    Anna Jorysz
    NMPi by Incubeta
    Display and Creative Director
    Interviewed September 25, 2020
    Toby Lett
    Product Manager
    Interviewed September 21, 2020
    Lisa Menaldo
    The Advisory Collective
    Interviewed September 21, 2020
    Emma Newman
    Chief Revenue Officer, EMEA
    Interviewed September 23, 2020
    Lasse Nordsiek
    Smart AdServer
    Country Manager, DACH
    Interviewed September 23, 2020
    Sophie Pemberton
    Talon Outdoor
    Group Strategy Director
    Interviewed September 4, 2020
    Veronique Pican
    Smart AdServer
    Country Manager, France
    Interviewed September 23, 2020
    Austin Scott
    Head of Video Market Development, EMEA
    Interviewed September 28, 2020
    Andreas Soupliotis
    Founder and CEO
    Interviewed September 23, 2020
    Gavin Wilson
    Chief Revenue Officer
    Interviewed September 15, 2020


    Bill Fisher


    Alina Brentnall
    Researcher, Europe
    Nicole Perrin
    Principal Analyst
    Shelleen Shum
    Senior Director, Forecasting
    Karin von Abrams
    Principal Analyst
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