We estimate that UK online ad spend grew by 12.3% this year, with growth concentrated almost exclusively in mobile search and social in-feed advertising (particularly video), and mostly incremental to overall ad spend

Even after payments to publishers and distributors, Google and Facebook captured 80% of all net new spend in the market, and 96% of it flowed through their platforms

Despite improving standardisation and disclosure, the outstanding issues around measurement, the ad-tech supply chain, and particularly the obscure and growing Google/Facebook/Amazon segment, lead us to identify a large portion of digital advertising as a “grey market”: difficult to get a handle on, with uncertain beneficiaries and slippery definitions

Digital advertising in the UK has been a phenomenal success story, but a concentrated one, such that many online media companies have not found a sustainable model

User payments are growing, but are currently focused on large, expensive bundles: Spotify, Netflix, the New York Times. This implements a hard division between free and paid and limits the potential audience

Micropayments and microsubscriptions are alternative models which content owners in certain media can use to address more types of demand. Multiple obstacles remain but for many companies the need to experiment has become critical

21CF’s bid for 100% ownership of Sky has been referred for a Phase 2 investigation to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which will decide by 6 March 2018

Third parties Avaaz and Ed Miliband MP complain of the influence of the Murdoch Family Trust (MFT) and family members over the UK’s news agenda and political process 

A remedy could insulate Sky News from this influence. The offer of a Sky News Editorial Board at Phase 1 was refused. Third parties will ensure the debate in Phase 2 is very lively

Secretary of State (SoS) Karen Bradley has made an initial decision to refer 21CF’s bid for Sky to the Competition Markets Authority (CMA) for a detailed consideration of media plurality concerns, to be finalised in the near future

The issue at hand is the potential increase in the influence of the members of the Murdoch Family Trust (MFT) over the UK’s news agenda and political process. The SoS rejected the remedy for Sky News brokered by Ofcom

Ofcom’s non-negative decision on the fitness and propriety of 21CF to hold Sky’s broadcast licences cleared another hurdle in the event the merger is finally accepted

Cross-device identity profiles are used to stitch together fragmenting online ad audiences, but also to enable new links between advertising and marketing, across European markets

This moves value from media itself to understanding each consumer and how they access content and services on proliferating connected devices

By 2020 we predict that 58% of all UK online ad buys by value will make use of high-quality audience IDs, led by the largest advertising platforms but limited by privacy regulation and cost

Media reports of ads by top brands appearing next to extremist content on YouTube have surprised advertisers and led to a barrage of criticism from other media companies, agencies and the UK government

Despite several advertisers pausing spend, the revenue impact for Google is likely to be small in the short term – but the debate is a symptom of ongoing tension between “frenemies”: large agencies and Google & Facebook 

By urging Google alone to educate display advertisers and filter campaigns, agencies risk ceding more of their client relationship to the advertising giant, while calls for the platform to make all editorial judgements on political content are inappropriate

Amazon’s marketing services bring in a growing stream of direct, high-margin revenue, but their main role is still in supporting vendor partnerships

Amazon uses customer profile data to profit from its own media and that of others, illustrating the value of a direct customer relationship in online advertising

In the future, Amazon’s moves into video content and voice interfaces are likely to significantly expand ad inventory, but maintaining the trust of shoppers is not straightforward