LONDON: UK programmatic spending has leapt ahead during the first three quarters of 2014, according to latest figures, as it begins to extend to higher quality inventory.

Data from Standard Media Index (SMI), which captures information directly from leading media buying agencies, show year-on-year programmatic advertising spend up 61.6% during the first three quarters and by 49.5% during the third quarter.

Alberto Leyes, director of business development at SMI, told Marketing Week the growth of programmatic was "unstoppable". By next year, he said, some of the bigger media owners in the UK could be selling almost half their inventory this way.

"Advertisers and media owners originally used programmatic to buy and sell unsold and low-quality inventory," he added. "Now the premium and high-quality inventory is starting to be sold through programmatic too. It's here to stay and is expected to keep growing over the next few years."

While programmatic was moving ahead the overall market was marginally down during the third quarter, as the expected post-World Cup hangover kicked in. Over the year as a whole, adspend was up 4.6%.

Digital spending continued to increase at the fastest rate, up 12.7% for the year and 3.7% for the quarter. Television also performed well, up 6% for the year and 7.3% in the quarter, as it played an increasingly central role in multichannel advertising strategies.

Print spending carried on falling: newspapers were down 18.9% in the third quarter and magazines 10.1%. But SMI reported that online advertising on some of the UK's leading newspaper websites was up significantly: by 40.1% at the Guardian, 37.5% at Mail Online and 34.9% at the Telegraph.

Among digital publishers, Twitter registered the greatest growth, up 81.7% for the year to date. Facebook's 21.1% uplift was small by comparison. But Leyes did explain that SMI only measures social media spending that goes through agencies, and much of their inventory is actually sold direct to advertisers.

Warc's UK Expenditure Report, produced alongside the UK Advertising Association, found digital adspend on newsbrands was up 17.8% yoy in Q2 2014.

Data sourced from Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff