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Forecast: UK adspend to grow 18.2% in 2021

July 29, 2021

The UK is set to post the strongest advertising expenditure growth of any major European market at 18.2 per cent in 2021 to reach a total of £27.7 billion, according to an Advertising Association/WARC Expenditure Report.

Based on advertising revenue data from across the entire media landscape, the report is a significant upward revision from the 15.2 per cent growth forecast issued in April. Coming off the back of an unprecedented downturn as a result of the pandemic, this rise in spending will be the highest on record, recovering the entirety of 2020’s £1.8 billion decline.

Why it matters

“Seventy pence in every pound spent on UK advertising is invested in digital formats, a rate which accelerated greatly last year and is now surpassed only by China”, explains James McDonald, Head of Data Content at WARC. “It is these formats that will lead absolute growth over the coming terms and none more so than paid search, which is seen to be benefitting from burgeoning e-commerce trade.”


  • Search cements its importance to doing business online with expected gains of 19.7 per cent year-on-year, particularly significant given the re-opening of physical retail locations. It suggests that e-commerce’s share of retail should continue. Similarly, online display – inclusive of social media and online video – is set to see 17.2 per cent growth this year.
  • The worst affected media in the pandemic are set to see the biggest gains, notably cinema (+315.6 per cent) and out of home (+29.3 per cent) of which digital will grow 43.7 per cent.
  • Q1, however, reflects the weight of the pandemic on spending, as spend rose just 0.8 per cent to £6.5bn during the first three months of the year – just behind the 1.8 per cent rise estimated in April. However, online formats – most notably search, online display and BVoD – were seen to grow by double-digits during the quarter.


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