Digital ad market prices nudge back to pre-lockdown levels

Ad prices on Facebook and Google appear to have returned to levels before lockdown prompted brands to pause spend.

Facebook: along with Instagram, prices are back at pre-lockdown levels
Facebook: along with Instagram, prices are back at pre-lockdown levels

The digital advertising market appears to have largely recovered from the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, according to performance marketing specialists.

In the last couple of weeks in May, average cost-per-click advertising is only 4% down compared with pre-lockdown levels in early March across all main online platforms in the UK, M&C Saatchi Performance has found.

Facebook and sister platform Instagram are now back at pre-lockdown levels, the agency told Campaign, and last week prices were actually higher than in early March (+5%), although it is too early to say if prices will stay at that level.

Despite consumers increasing their use of digital platforms during the crisis, a collapse in demand for brand advertising across all platforms had led to an overall fall in prices for digital ad inventory. 

Google is still down on pre-lockdown levels, M&C Saatchi Performance found, by about 10% in the past week compared with early March, but this is up from a fall of 40% in the depths of the lockdown. 

Apple Search ads, meanwhile, have remained consistent throughout the period, the agency reported.

Andrew Platt, the agency’s managing partner, media, said: "You could assume prices are stabilising quicker as advertisers come back as well as consumers reducing usage slightly (in line with lockdown gradually easing over the last weeks). 

"Google would be more impacted by advertisers (competition) alone, rather than a shift in user behaviour that would impact CPCs. Therefore their increase in CPC prices is slower compared with Facebook and Instagram."

Jellyfish reported a similar picture for cost-per-milles on Facebook ads (pictured, below), which have steadily floated back to pre-lockdown levels until the middle of May, when they appear to have stabilised. 

Shamsul Chowdhury, vice-president of paid social at Jellyfish, said Facebook CPMs "took a nosedive on the week of 16 March, when advertisers paused Facebook spend".

He explained: "After a few weeks, once the dust settled, advertisers started getting back in the mix and CPMs started to increase by around 5-10% every week. It looks like after the week of 13 April, it's been on a steady increase, finally decreasing the week of 18 May."

Meanwhile, average CPCs for Google Shopping, the tech giant’s ecommerce ad platform, have shown a significant increase in recent weeks as advertisers slowly increase spend and switch focus from brick and mortar to online retail. 

Figures seen by Campaign show that product listing ad prices fell by two-thirds in March – from about 30p to 10p in a one-week period – but appear to have stabilised to 25p at the end of May.

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