The latest IAB digital ad spend results have been released. In it is revealed the fact that in the UK paid search is now the largest advertising sector, above TV and even programmatic display.

It appears as though the constant Google algorithm changes have managed to drive even more money into the pockets of Alphabet and their investors.

But is paid search really advertising at all?

In the old days, before the internet, if you wanted a pair of shoes you’d go to town, find a shop which sells shoes, and buy them. You might know you wanted a pair of Clarks shoes, or you might spend a bit of time to peruse a number of shops. Shops would spend money on rent, staff, store frontage, and a number of other tangibles to ensure they got your business. But this would never be included in a marketing budget.

Now, you go online, go to or search for clarks, or you search for shoes (you might specify a colour, or a size, or a type… whatever). The point is, none of this is new, it’s just a way of doing online what we’ve previously done in the past. You either know what you want and go straight to it, or you shop around a bit and eventually get what you want.

The best advertising is about creating a demand for a product or a brand. Paid search does not create demand, it converts it. And whilst this is important, I would argue it’s not advertising.

With budgets about to be squeezed again in the UK due to Brexit bringing with it price pressure this could be an important argument for brands to have.

What do you think? Agree, disagree, or simply don’t believe this is important? I’d love to hear your thoughts – email me at 


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