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UK: Sharp Declines Across Traditional Media Will Drag Total Ad Spend Down by 7.5% in 2020

Digital continues to steal share at a rapid rate 


The depth and lasting impact of the global recession, along with the sharp economic downturn in the UK, signal a long and challenging road to recovery. This year in the UK, total media ad spending will be £21.03 billion ($26.84 billion), down 7.5% from 2019. This steep decline in expenditures can be attributed to the lack of spending on traditional media.

“Traditional advertising has suffered hugely during the pandemic, due to stay-at-home orders and the cancellation of large sporting events,” said Bill Fisher, eMarketer senior analyst at Insider Intelligence. “Digital, meanwhile, has offered the biggest captive audience and an easy and cost-effective route to consumers. Spend on traditional media will rebound once some semblance of normalcy returns next year, but it’s unlikely to reach pre-pandemic levels.”


After making very significant downward revisions across traditional media channels due to the effects of COVID-19, we expect traditional media ad spending to fall 22.6% in 2020. This estimate is based upon the assumption that the UK will not experience a significant second wave of infections.


As a result of the coronavirus, out-of-home (OOH) advertising was the most negatively affected medium, with growth revised down from our previous forecast by 26.3 percentage points. That was followed closely by radio, revised down by 22.0 percentage points.

Digital ad spending will remain relatively flat this year, growing 0.3% to reach £15.08 billion ($19.25 billion). However, it is the only major medium that will see growth in advertiser spending in 2020, accelerating its share of the total UK ad market. Although digital will gain 5.6 percentage points in market share this year, that trend will pause next year as traditional media bounces back. Digital will account for 71.7% of total ad spend in 2020, and that proportion will reach 75.6% by 2024.


Within digital, video ad spending will be the fastest-growing format this year, at 15.0%. Video will also account for more than half of all digital display ad spending for the first time. While display outlays will rise 7.2%, search spending will decrease by 3.2%. (Nonvideo display will decrease as well.) This year, and the subsequent recovery period, will be tough on sectors that spend heavily on search, such as travel and hospitality.



eMarketer’s forecasts and estimates are based on an analysis of quantitative and qualitative data from research firms, government agencies, media firms and public companies, plus interviews with top executives at publishers, ad buyers and agencies. Data is weighted based on methodology and soundness. Each eMarketer forecast fits within the larger matrix of all its forecasts, with the same assumptions and general framework used to project figures in a wide variety of areas. Regular re-evaluation of available data means the forecasts reflect the latest business developments, technology trends and economic changes.


About eMarketer
Founded in 1996, eMarketer is the first place to look for research about marketing in a digital world.  eMarketer enables thousands of companies worldwide to understand marketing trends, consumer behavior and get the data needed to succeed in the competitive and fast-changing digital economy.  eMarketer’s flagship product, eMarketer PRO, is home to all of eMarketer’s research, including forecasts, analyst reports, aggregated data from 3,000+ sources, interviews with industry leaders, articles, charts and comparative market data. eMarketer’s free daily newsletters span the US, EMEA and APAC and are read by more than 200,000 readers globally.  In 2016 eMarketer, Inc. was acquired by European media giant Axel Springer S.E.


Posted on July 6, 2020.