EU digital ad spend grew by 30.5 per cent in 2021 - report

David Murphy

IAB Europe has released its full 2021 AdEx Benchmark Report following the release of the study highlights in May. The report offers a guide to advertising expenditure in Europe, covering 28 markets. It details the formats and channels that contributed to digital advertising’s annual growth of 30.5 per cent in 2021, culminating in a total market value of €92bn (£79.3bn).

All 28 markets covered in the study have recorded double-digit growth. Seven markets grew above the average growth rate of 30.5 per cent, with a mix of countries from Western and Central & Eastern Europe.

IAB Europe forecast a growth rate of 28.6 per cent for 2021. The markets surged and exceeded expectations to achieve a growth rate of 30.5 per cent, which is the highest growth recorded in the study since 2008. This equated to a total of €21.5bn added to the digital advertising market in 2021. When looking at digital ad spend per head, however, some key markets still lag behind the European average of €115; Spain for example at €92 and Poland at €38.

Video was a key driver of growth both in and out of social spend. It grew by 46.2 per cent and now accounts for 41 per cent of all display ad spend. Video also now exceeds half of total display spend in three markets; Ukraine, UK and Italy.

In 2021 digital audio grew by 50.7 per cent, higher than all other formats. The audio market continues to grow rapidly, from a low base, reaching €700m in 2021, or 3 per cent of display spend. Programmatic, excluding social, accounts for more than half of display ad spend driven by a move to private marketplaces and adoption in CEE markets. 

“All parts of digital advertising benefited from the 2021 bonanza, but most notably those formats and approaches that enable small and medium sized businesses, eCommerce-related advertising, video-based storytelling and formats that provide access to new consumer behaviour at scale, such as audio and gaming,” said Dr. Daniel Knapp, Chief Economist, IAB Europe, who compiled the study. “Although market growth in 2021 was tightly clustered in the mid-twenties for most countries, European digital ad markets are heterogeneous, with a wide range of ad spend per capita allocations even in markets of similar economic power. This signals significant headroom for growth remains available.”