UK Publishers Look Past Open Programmatic for Ad Revenues in AOP Survey

Dan Meier 15 February, 2023 

The vast majority (86 percent) of UK publishers expect most advertising revenue growth to come from outside open programmatic marketplaces, the Association of Online Publishers (AOP) has found, suggesting hesitance over embracing a programmatic future.

According to the Digital Publishing: Outlook and Priorities for 2023 survey, just 14 percent of publishers expect open programmatic to be their primary ad revenue driver for the next three years, down from 20 percent last year.

Instead of open programmatic auctions, 42 percent consider the greatest potential revenue growth to come from non-programmatic direct deals, and 44 percent from private marketplaces.

The results suggest the promises of programmatic have been unfulfilled from the publisher perspective, with revenues hit by ad tech fees and losses associated with the sunsetting of third-party cookies. “The trend away from open programmatic is unsurprising, as frustrations around transparency and equitable revenues have been mounting for years,” said Richard Reeves, Managing Director at AOP.

Taking steps

Cookie deprecation proved a sticking point for the respondents, reporting an average confidence rating of 6.5 out of 10, unchanged from the same time last year. Publishers are pursuing a range of strategies to leverage their first-party data, including improving the engagement funnel to build better first-party data (23 percent), implementing tech solutions to provide a 360-degree view of audiences (15 percent) and investing in solutions to deliver a more personalised user experience (15 percent).

The other major concern outlined in the report was the Online Safety Bill, met with a 5.6 average confidence rating among publishers. “This is higher than the 4.5 score provided last year when the same question was asked, but still suggests that publishers are unsure of the impact of this flagship piece
of government legislation,” said the report. The majority of respondents are not taking/are unclear on steps to ensure compliance with the Bill.

The outlook on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) commitments proved more positive, with 80 percent of publishers either already having or putting in place a strategy to meet ESG requirements. While 67 percent agreed that ESG was core to their company values, 75 percent stated they are focused on reducing their organisation’s carbon footprint.

“It’s fantastic to see ESG as a core focus for the vast majority of respondents and that the impetus for change is being driven both culturally and commercially,” added Richard Reeves.

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