The RTB Trend Report Europe, from Adform, the digital advertising platform, noted that the traditional post-Christmas lull had not been in evidence, while March alone had seen the most ad spend since the company's foundation in 2002.
Adform attributed this development to the fact that programmatic was becoming increasingly mainstream among advertisers at the same time as publishers were opening more of their inventory to these channels.
Moreover, many marketers were looking to move away from standard banners to video and rich media inventory, but the report suggested that growth in programmatic rich media was being "stymied by a lack of available inventory". Overall, spending on RTB standard banners fell from 91.33% of the total in January 2014 to 88.68% in March.
Programmatic spending was up by more than 120% in every country from Q1 2013 to Q1 2014, with Nordic countries, especially Finland, performing well.
Engagement rates had dropped 17% in the first quarter of 2014 compared to the final quarter of 2013, but engagement times were steady at 15 seconds, with another Nordic nation, Norway, standing out from the pack with average engagement times over 20 seconds.
Adform also reported a surge in the number of mobile impressions, up 433% from Q1 2013 to Q1 2014, with tablet impressions outweighing phone impressions for the first time.
"The sustained growth in programmatic is a clear indication that both marketers and publishers view it as a vital component to digital advertising," Martin Stockfleth Larsen, chief marketing officer at Adform, told The Drum.
"We anticipate programmatic ad spending to grow throughout 2014, with a heavy emphasis on rich-media and mobile campaigns."
Data sourced from Adform, The Drum; additional content by Warc staff