The Brexit countdown begins – but what’s next for digital advertising?

04/03 By Nick Morley

As we embark upon two years of exit negotiations following the triggering of Article 50, the future feels somewhat uncertain for the UK’s digital advertising and marketing industries.

The aftermath of the referendum saw strong growth with UK ad spend up 4.2 per cent, but growth is set to dip globally this year. The UK slowdown is expected to be particularly significant amid Brexit jitters, with ad spend due to fall 0.7 per cent. What’s more, speculation that tech companies may relocate to Berlin, Lisbon, or Amsterdam to remain inside the EU is unsettling.

While this uncertainty may cause doubt, could Brexit be the incentive needed to embrace new opportunities and clean up the digital advertising industry?

The slowdown in growth is likely to be a short-term response to political uncertainty, and actually, the future looks promising for the UK’s digital advertising and marketing industries. The revelation that over £6.7bn was invested in UK tech firms in 2016 has lifted spirits. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has reaffirmed his faith in the UK as the company prepares its Battersea Power Station headquarters, and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Clara Shih believes London has all the ingredients to create a successful business that can rival Facebook. Confidence should be further strengthened by Snapchat’s decision to set up its international office in London and Google’s confirmation of plans to build a new headquarters in the city.

But to prepare for potentially tougher times ahead, the UK must focus on increasing quality and ensuring transparency for digital advertising. The Integral Ad Science H2 2016 Media Quality Report indicates the UK lags behind France and Germany in overall display ad quality, particularly viewability, although it does deliver the lowest ad fraud risk.

Brexit should be used as a catalyst to improve quality and deliver better service for brands and publishers, ultimately making digital advertising more attractive to investment. There are various ways to accomplish this:

Integrate performance measurement

It is no longer acceptable to blame technology segmentation for poor insight. Tech providers must assist brands in measuring the true impact of every ad exposure, illustrating how campaigns across different channels work together and influence one another.

Work with verification providers

Fraud and viewability are high priorities, and Procter and Gamble has announced its providers must accept the Media Ratings Council viewability standard, and be accredited by the Trustworthy Accountability Group. Implementing third-party verification ensures no one is rewarded for delivering non-viewable or fraudulent impressions.

Employ a range of quality metrics

The industry must include wider quality metrics alongside fraud and viewability. Understanding the environment advertising is appearing in and identifying impressions that pose a risk to reputation will help brands to reach and influence new digital audiences. Finally, metrics that incorporate engagement such as frequency and time-in-view can be used to create a formula for advertising effectiveness.

Just because the UK is leaving the EU doesn’t mean UK-based providers won’t continue to operate across Europe. Investment will continue to flow, with London-based Atomico recently raising a £613m fund to invest in European tech start-ups. Rumblings of discontent continue in France, the Netherlands, and Italy, suggesting fragmentation may well be on-going across the wider European political scene, and by extension the tech industry. And just like the UK, there is a great opportunity for these markets to treat potential division and uncertainty as a motivator to support a wider focus on transparency and improve business practices across the continent.

No one is expecting an entirely smooth exit from the EU, and the UK’s tech companies are sure to encounter some challenges. But by using the next two years to strengthen service offerings and improve quality, we will be well placed to take advantage of new opportunities across Europe and beyond.

This article was published in CityAM.