Data: UK advertisers increase TV spend in pandemic

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Advertising spend was decimated by the pandemic, with the UK’s ad market down by 7.2 per cent in 2020. However, although many businesses were forced to cut their advertising budgets, figures show that many significantly increased their investment in TV advertising in 2020 – and have continued in 2021.

According to data from Nielsen, a total of 619 advertisers in the UK increased their TV spend in 2020 compared with 2019 (representing 24 per cent of all 2019’s TV advertisers). Of these, 142 advertisers increased their TV spend by over £1 million (€1.19m) year-on-year.

The data excludes new-to-TV advertisers in 2020; it is based solely on existing TV advertisers that increased their investment.

In total, advertisers who increased their TV investment invested an extra £590 million in TV in 2020 on top of what they spent in 2019.

Notable businesses who increased their TV advertising spend in 2020 include:

  • Unilever: increased TV by 131 per cent (+£66 million) to £116 million
  • eBay: increased TV by 117 per cent (+£12 million) to £22 million
  • EE: increased TV by 67 per cent (+£9 million) to £23 million
  • Samsung: increased TV by 41 per cent (+£9 million) to £30 million
  • Tesco: increased TV by 23 per cent (+£6 million) to £34 million


Increased confidence in 2021

In 2021, demand for TV advertising has surged, with the Advertising Association/WARC predicting that the total TV advertising market will be up by 22.9 per cent, more than reversing the 11.8 per cent overall decline in 2020.

Of the 142 advertisers that increased their TV investment in 2020 by over £1 million, the vast majority have continued to strengthen their commitment to TV in 2021. 89 per cent have increased TV spend again in 2021 relative to 2019 levels, with 68 per cent increasing TV by over 50 per cent.

For example, according to Nielsen’s data, Unilever invested £59 million more in TV during January to September 2021 than they did during the same period in 2019, an increase of 142 per cent. Tesco has increased TV by £9 million, a 69 per cent increase; O2 is up £9 million (+112 per cent); GoCompare is up by £4 million (+25 per cent); and Zoopla has increased TV by £5 million (+194 per cent).

Matt Hill, Thinkbox’s Research and Planning Director: “In 2020, when the price of TV dropped due to lower demand overall, the easy thing for advertisers to do would have been to maintain their usual level of TV exposure, but at a much lower level of investment. Some advertisers did this, understandably. Some had to stop advertising altogether. But what these figures show is that a large number of advertisers – especially big brands that were already significant TV investors – took advantage of the moment and the incredible value on offer to increase their TV exposure. And it looks like it paid off, as they have continued to increase their TV investment in 2021.”


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