UK adspend to surpass £20bn for first time in 2019


Spending on advertising will pass the £20bn mark for the first time in 2019, as Google and Facebook offset a traditional media slump in print.


The forecasts, from media investment group GroupM, indicate that UK advertising is expected to increase to £20.8 billion in 2019, surpassing the £20 billion mark for the first time, up from £19.9 billion in 2018.

GroupM forecasts 6.0% growth for 2018, down from 6.4% in 2017. Its 2019 growth prediction from earlier this year is shaved to 4.8% from 5.1%. A significant contributor to global advertising growth, the UK still looks to remain stable due to the high levels of digital advertising growth. Digital is around 60% of all advertising investment and accounts for all net UK advertising growth. The medium continues to grow organically, predominately from SME investment, with signs that larger advertisers are becoming more circumspect about incremental digital investment.

Pure-play internet increased 11% in 2018 and is expected to continue growing by 9% in 2019. Slower than IAB’s estimated run-rate of 15% for 1H 2018, GroupM sees an inevitable slowdown, although digital is still likely to account for all new net advertising growth.

GroupM forecasts television advertising investment to remain flat in 2018, with 1% growth expected in 2019. According to Nielsen, key TV categories soft this year include Food, Household FMCG, Retail, Entertainment & Leisure. Finance (TV’s largest category) and Motors (fifth) are growing high-single-digit in the year to September. ‘Share deals’ remain the principal trading mode in UK TV, which advertisers value for its tolerance of short-run budget revisions, but mixed modes of airtime are becoming more routine as trading embraces more audience falling outside Barb’s ‘gold standard’. Facebook in particular, is still winning share of audio-visual advertising and is heavily video-biased for large advertisers. The main reason is convenience and the lust for ‘performance media’.

Print media continue to shrink, with newspapers (national and regional) plus magazines collectively shedding about 1.5 share points a year. In 2017, news brands included 12.5% of all ad investment and in 2018 11.1%, with 2019 estimated to drop to 9.8%. Even with mitigation from digital sales (now a large minority of ad sales), this reveals an investment trend of -6% in 2018 and -7% in 2019, as the ‘walled gardens’ capture more share. Armed with research, owners are putting up a united front with reassurance and stable media pricing; this has renewed advertiser enthusiasm for the medium.  

Radio is holding its audience and enjoying rising demand. GroupM forecasts radio spot advertising revenue to rise 10% in 2018 and 7% in 2019. Radio owners will book about £500 million in spot revenue in 2018. This does not include digital and streaming revenues, which are an unmeasured mix of static and dynamic activity, and thus hard to estimate. The annual run-rate is probably above £100 million.

“Future Brexit fall-out remains a complete unknown, but for now the economy is doing OK. Ad revenue forecasts remain perhaps surprisingly positive, supported by digital commanding a rising share of overall marketing effort from a wider base of marketers large and small. The UK’s fluid media market favours optimism too. Advertisers know they can change spending plans almost at will, with low or no friction,” said Adam Smith, Futures Director, GroupM.

GroupM’s forecasted distribution of advertising investment is below:

Year Over Year Percentage Change

Media yoy % change




Media Category





Radio spot




National newsbrands




Regional newsbrands




Consumer magazine brands




B2B magazine brands












Pure-play internet








“Collaboration and measurement remain key topics for the UK alongside Brexit and GDPR in our advertising forecast for 2019, but in a sea-of-change advertising investment stays buoyant reaching unprecedented levels,” said Tom George, CEO, GroupM UK. “It’s encouraging to see the industry pulling together to create new and improved investment propositions. GroupM is highly engaged with all of these efforts to ensure our clients continue to effectively engage consumers.”

Commenting on the data, Andrew Morsy, MD UK at Sizmek warned that the reliance on Google and Facebook may well hurt the industry, particularly as issues surrounding brand transparency continue to emerge.

“This new report shows that while over 60% of all advertising investment is digital – indeed a positive indicator for the whole industry – an over-reliance and over-investment in the walled gardens of Facebook and Google could be counter-productive to many marketers looking to reap the benefits of digital investment. The technology giants rightly deserve a place in the advertising ecosystem, but there is a much bigger world out there that many marketers are missing out on. With only 43% of time spent on the two tech giants, marketers could truly get more bang for their buck by evening out their digital spend.

“As digital advertising shows no signs of slowing – another forecast says UK ad spend will grow from £24bn to over £26bn by 2020 – an advertising strategy that puts faith in artificial intelligence will ensure adverts are served in a smarter, safer and more memorable way. And this is why digital advertising is growing so rapidly; it is now safer, more secure and more transparent than it ever has been, thanks to the continued advancements in AI technology to help with brand safety issues and even drive creativity. In an age where capturing the audience’s attention is a real challenge, a combined approach of data, creative and media – powered by AI – will guarantee that value is added to every single step of a campaign.”



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