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Report: UK ad spend to exceed £29bn this year

October 28, 2021

UK ad spend is expected to hit a record £7.9 billion in Q4, according to the latest Advertising Association/WARC Expenditure Report forecast; figures for the full year are now projected to be £29.3 billion (€34.7bn), representing annual growth of 24.8 per cent.

The UK is on course to achieve the fastest ad trade recovery of any major European market this year. The data proves advertising’s role as “a vital engine for growth in the UK economy”, says Advertising Association chief executive Stephen Woodford.


Actual figures show advertising spend rose 86.5 per cent to reach £7.7 billion in Q2 2021, underlining a strong recovery following the unprecedented disruption during the first wave of Covid-19 last year, when UK ad spend fell by 34.1 per cent in Q2 2020 at the height of the nation’s first lockdown.

All media saw a strong recovery in Q2 2021, led by sectors such as out of home (+276.8 per cent), digital magazine brands (+155.5 per cent) and direct mail (+104 per cent) as the nation emerged from the third coronavirus lockdown. While the half-year figures show a slower recovery for newsbrands, their online ad revenues still saw a double-digit growth (+22.2 per cent national digital and +28 per cent regional digital).

  • Christmas ad spend led by online shopping

Forecast Q4 spending of £7.9 billion is the highest level ever recorded during the Christmas period and £929 million more than last year. Search (+15.3 per cent) and TV (+9 per cent) will be the big winners; in particular, broadcaster video-on-demand will be up by a quarter (24.1 per cent).

  • Continued strong growth seen in 2022

Revised projections for 2022 show a 7.7 per cent increase year-on-year to more than £31.5 billion. Media channels set for a significant recovery following the Covid-19 pandemic include cinema (+123.2 per cent) and out of home (+27.7 per cent), while the growth in search, which includes e-commerce spend, is expected to continue its rise (+11.4 per cent).

“Strong fourth quarter projections for TV, a medium heavily leveraged by retailers during the golden quarter, and search, which encompasses activity on e-commerce platforms, suggest it will be largely business as usual for the industry this year,” commented James McDonald, head of data content, WARC.

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