Radar love: which sectors charmed digital advertisers for Valentine’s Day?

Money can’t buy love, but it can provide plenty of ways to express it on Valentine’s Day.


In 2015 starry-eyed consumers spent £518 million on gifts, £313 million on wining and dining, and £135 million on cards and wrapping paper alone.

This year, the price of passion was expected to climb even higher, with smitten UK consumers predicted to fuel an overall spend of £980 million.

For brands, this makes the allure of Valentine’s Day advertising irresistible — particularly online where audience traffic increased by 112% for the occasion last year.

So which sectors won digital advertisers’ hearts this year, and which received the cold shoulder? To find out, we compared advertising activity through the OpenX advertising exchange during both the weekend before the event and Valentine’s Day weekend itself, which generated some tantalising results:

Dating, intimate apparel and hotels set hearts a flutter
Perhaps unsurprisingly, online dating was a key focus and ad budgets rose by 72% in a bid to reach consumers searching for a spark. Getting closer to their audience than ever, advertisers also boosted spend for intimate apparel by 47%, and targeted those planning to stay at home with an increase in food and drink ads of 129%.

Not to miss out on tempting lovers with romantic getaways, brands also bumped up ads for hotels and resorts by 48%, and airlines by 43%.

The biggest surprise, however, was that spend for dental ads shot up by 183%, while spend for retail and shopping ads increased by only 60% — demonstrating an unexpected and possibly misguided emphasis on bright smiles over Valentine’s gifts.

Love is lost for beauty, alcohol and health
Ad spend for alcohol declined by 53%, possibly due to an assumption that consumers would be enticed by supermarket meal deals with bubbles included. Budget for events and tickets also decreased by 81% as brands acknowledged that love-struck consumers were likely to only have eyes for each other. Spend for ads related to sexual health understandably dwindled by 19% to avoid dampening the mood.

Interestingly, in an area that would be tipped for high consumer spend around Valentine’s Day — beauty and hygiene — ad spend shrunk by 18%. This can arguably be heralded as a missed opportunity for brands to boost revenue by fuelling consumers’ desire to look their best for the romantic event.

Valentine’s Day is undoubtedly big business for brands, but it seems that assumption may be leading brands to miss out on potential revenue.

Increases in ad spend for sectors such as online dating, intimate apparel and last-minute breaks are in harmony with the spirit of romance. But reductions in spend for relevant verticals like beauty and retail could leave brands regretting the opportunities that got away.

By Andrew Buckman, managing director EMEA of OpenX