Online advertising plays a larger role in the UK economy than anywhere else in the world, according to a new study that estimates UK online adspend accounts for 0.63% of GDP – the highest in the world relative to the size of the economy.

The Advertising Association’s report, entitled Advertising Pays 7: UK Advertising’s Digital Revolution, also reveals that the UK is the largest online advertising market in Europe and the third largest in the world.

That places the UK behind only the US and China in terms of online adspend and well ahead of countries like Germany and Japan, which have much larger economies and populations.

The report, which was produced by advertising think tank Credos in partnership with Enders Analysis, further states that online advertising made up 57% of the UK’s total adspend of £23.6bn in 2018, and this is expected to rise to 62% by 2020.

Going all the way back to 1994, the report traces the massive growth of online advertising in the UK over the past 25 years and shows how this has been fuelled by the country’s strong online economy.

“At £1,868 per person, the UK retail e-commerce expenditure per capita is higher than in any other G20 market. Both online advertising and internet retail expenditure in the UK have almost trebled since 2010,” the report said.

This is reflected in the booming UK adtech sector, which has attracted £1bn in investment since 2013 and employs more than 19,000 workers across more than 300 UK-headquartered companies.

The report also notes that online advertising has given a significant lift to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) because they can now target consumers more effectively on a small budget.

According to survey findings, the proportion of SMEs that advertise is now higher than ever, having risen from 30% in 2013 to 42% in 2017.

Commenting on the findings, Stephen Woodford, chief executive of the Advertising Association, said: “The UK is a global online advertising powerhouse with the capabilities to drive economic growth and drive societal change.

“With the right conditions, UK advertising can play a fundamental role in the UK’s future growth, not just within our borders but in how we do business with people worldwide.”

Sourced from Advertising Association; additional content by WARC staff