UK advertisers pull more than £1.1bn spend during pandemic

The government has become the UK's largest advertiser during the coronavirus pandemic as UK media pulled more than £1.1 billion in spending, compared to last year's figures.


Spending on advertising tools such as, TV, radio, billboards and newspapers and magazines, has halved since lockdown began. Many firms’ marketing budgets froze causing a 48 per cent decrease in advertising costs to £1.2 billion from £2.3 billion. TV giants, Sky, who experienced a £575 million loss in revenue due to the lockdown, cut their budget by 60 per cent to £19 million, as sport and the rest of the world stood still.

Barney Farmer, UK commercial director at Nielsen said, “There was no guidebook on how to navigate advertising during the lockdown period, with customers restricted to home environments and an unclear exit strategy,”

Out of all the media outlets, TV experienced the largest spending cut by nearly £500 million from £822 million. Newspapers and magazines suffered a £155 million loss with radio losing out on £79 million. The largest proportionate cut was within cinema with a zero spend compared to £80 million last year.

As firms cut spending on advertising, the government was urging the public to stay at home increasing spending as the safety of the public became paramount.

“We have seen varying approaches to advertising during the lockdown period,” Farmer added, “Some have increased spend but the majority have cut back.”

Public Health England (PHE) increased their spending by £5,000, from last year, to £44 million, becoming the largest advertiser during the pandemic. PHE have almost spent 50 per cent more than the second largest advertiser, Unilever.

Farmer continues to say that, “Public Health England ran an effective campaign to encourage lockdown compliance and raise awareness of best health practices, and its incredible increase in spend reflects the importance of advertising as a communication platform for any public or private body.”

An additional £15 million was spent on other advertising campaigns by the government, while the Scottish government increased their spending to £6.3 million, over a 500 per cent increase.

During the lockdown, streaming service Disney+ was launched in Europe and the UK as customers were confined to their homes, increasing their spend to £10.2 million. Industries who suffered the largest cuts were in the entertainment and leisure industry, down by £207 million, and transport, suffering a £138 million loss.

“As we transition into a less-restricted environment, we expect spend to pick up significantly as brands once again vie to be front of mind with consumers,” Farmer concludes.



Author: James Parker


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