In response to COVID-19 and the associated lockdown and economic crash, advertisers have slashed budgets. Online budgets are not immune.

This has clarified features of the online ad market: it is demand-driven, relies heavily on SMEs and startups, and is built on direct response campaigns.

We expect online advertising to outperform other media, and for platforms to further gain share. But with a very few exceptions, this health and economic disaster is good for nobody.

Car transactions are down for the third consecutive year and consumer demand is dramatically shifting (away from diesel and towards alternative fuels), but the marketing expenditure on used cars remains robust overall. Auto Trader has extended its leading position as the largest used car portal, so far shielded from the structural headwinds affecting its core customer group of dealerships. Several disruptors have entered the UK automotive space in the past couple of years, but none have gained real traction in the listings space, instead opting for ancillary approaches. Tech disruption will come, but much longer term.

Expenditure on UK classifieds peaked in 2004, but has since almost halved to £1.95 billion in 2018. In every vertical, the print to digital transition of expenditure has favoured a first mover, leading to dominant positions that challengers find hard to disrupt.

The property market was stagnant in 2019, with stable house price growth but low transaction volumes as Brexit uncertainty held back sales. An expected cut in interest rates this year should contribute to a slight rise in transaction volumes.

The low tide of transactions has cemented the reign of Rightmove and condemned challengers to low traction. No. 2 player, Zoopla, plans for a major drive in 2020 after a 1.5-year investment spree by parent private equity firm Silver Lake Partners.

New car registrations will be down 6.3% (2.4m) in 2018, another year of decline from the 2016 peak of 2.7m, impacted by the soft consumer confidence in big-ticket purchases, with some spin down to used car sales

Auto Trader, despite the car industry’s downturn, has experienced only marginal pain thanks to the strategic focus on revenue diversification – principally into new cars, dealer auctions and enhanced subscription-based services for dealers

Our forecasts for media expenditure on cars in 2018 and 2019 are essentially flat. Auto Trader’s positioning offers insulation in a downturn, and we expect they will gain share in marketing spend, though not necessarily in terms of total consumer or industry expenditure

The UK consumer’s loss of confidence since the June 2016 referendum vote in favour of Brexit has reduced the revenues of both estate agents and auto dealers, with knock-on effects on their media spend, entrenching further the leadership positions of Rightmove and Auto Trader respectively. Only the UK’s recruitment marketplace is buoyant with a record level of vacancies, benefiting general recruitment aggregator Indeed, although deepening Brexit gloom among businesses will rapidly melt away vacancies

With internet users flocking to portals and away from print media, advertisers have followed suit with media spend on these portals to stimulate purchaser interest, although transactions are still conducted offline. Facebook and Google, which have long histories of contesting markets for local advertisers with little success, have re-entered classifieds. Facebook Marketplace is now accepting listings from estate agents and dealers, expanding from C2C to B2C in homes and cars. Google Jobs launched in the UK in July 2018 and enjoys partnerships with all the major portals other than Indeed

The sharp decline in sales and shift to lettings, sluggish price growth and pressure on estate agents’ commissions, are making marketing key to driving transactional activity in a longer sales funnel. Rightmove’s revenues are on track for a 10% increase in 2018 on the uplift in average revenue per agent (ARPA). Zoopla's market share rose with the end of OnTheMarket's 'one-other-portal' rule for shareholders upon its AIM listing in February 2018 

Rigour and consistency in AV ad metrics is proving elusive. A 10-second ad on YouTube, ITV1, All4, MailOnline, Sky AdSmart or Facebook is measured in as many different ways, often indifferently. It is tricky, costly or impossible for agencies/advertisers to comprehend the overall picture.

By 2020 JIC-based BVOD ad impressions should be available from BARB all being well, giving BVOD a clear advantage over other premium online video measurement.

Google/YouTube seems to be ‘getting’ JIC co-operation now and has begun to galvanise video ad measurement, but forceful advertiser intervention is needed to extend and improve standards. Otherwise, advertisers are simply funding a JIC-free jamboree, and they (with content media) will lose the most.

Spotify is now the world’s first publicly listed on-demand music streaming service. Its global footprint generated €4 billion in 2017 from over 70 million paying subscribers and 90 million ad-funded users across 65 countries

As it expands, the service is steadily but surely moving ever closer to profitability, with a 2019 operating profit a very real prospect

So far and for the near future, Spotify’s global pre-eminence versus competition from Apple, Amazon and Google proves remarkably resilient. Plans to build upon its differentiating features will become ever more decisive as the tech titans will continue to wield their resources and ecosystems against the comparatively undiversified company

We forecast UK display adspend to grow by 3.1% in 2018 (<1% in nominal terms), with TV roughly steady, newspaper decline slowing and digital growth slowing a little

Households are facing an income squeeze and the ability of debt and credit to carry them over is reaching its sensible limit. Brexit-related uncertainties remain the single strongest drag on business investment, dampening ad spend

TV spend is the £5bn question. While live viewing continues to decline, TV delivers against different marketing objectives from precisely targeted online inventory, and rapid broadcaster VOD growth will help hold TV spend steady