Mobile CTRs in the UK Aren’t Impressive

Mobile advertising is booming in the UK, as ad buyers hope to reach consumers whose attention is increasingly drawn to handheld screens. The fastest-growing advertising medium in the country, eMarketer estimates, mobile spend is projected to overtake TV in 2016 and become the UK’s largest ad segment overall in 2017, according to a new eMarketer report, “UK Mobile Ad Effectiveness 2014: Questions on Mobile’s March to the Top.”

Performance Metrics for Mobile Display Ads in Select Countries, H1 2014

But advertisers should caution themselves before blindly changing channels. Analysis of mobile ads’ performance in the UK finds that these ads generate lower attentiveness and less favorable responses than ads seen on other devices. To date, UK mobile users are among the least likely of those in several developed nations to click on mobile display ads, even as UK advertisers record some of the highest rates of ad spending per user to reach them.

Network data from European demand-side platform (DSP) Adformsuggests mobile display ads in the UK are only marginally clicked on more frequently than digital display ads as a whole (including standard banners, rich media banners, video ads and mobile display ads). It found a 0.11% clickthrough rate (CTR) for mobile display ads during H1 2014, compared with a 0.09% CTR for digital display ads.

For UK advertisers that have committed themselves to leaving behind low-response desktop banners, mobile display does not yet look like the great leap forward. Moreover, mobile display CTR performed worse than in any other country studied except Russia, according to Adform’s data.

Results like those are not necessarily universal. Different exchanges will see different performance depending on their inventory and users, but better performance in more engaging rich media formats appears to be a common goal advertisers are gravitating toward. The UK market will move toward this ideal at a faster rate than elsewhere.

Clickthrough Rates for Mobile* vs. Nonmobile Pre-Roll Video Ads Viewed in Select Countries, Q3 2014

With performance improving, it is clear why advertisers are moving toward video. For example, video ad network TubeMogul disclosed the performance of pre-roll video ads on mobile and nonmobile platforms for five international markets in Q2 2013. It found that in the UK, in-app mobile uplift over desktop was muted, with mobile and nonmobile CTRs of 1.5% and 1.3%, respectively. The UK also had the lowest mobile video CTR of the set. In Q3 2014, however, mobile video CTR had risen to 2.0%, while nonmobile CTR remained the same, suggesting not only that mobile’s performance is improving but that the performance relative to desktop is widening.