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7 key facts from the UK TV advertising market in 2020

TV ad spend in 2020 was £3.7 billion, down from £4.2 billion in 2019 (-11%)
The initial COVID-19 lockdown in Q2 delivered the most severe negative blow for broadcasters. Demand from a large swathe of advertisers disappeared almost overnight. Traditionally higher demand and revenue months in Q4 helped close the gap and limit the overall damage.

Delivered adult impacts increased by 6% year-on-year (YoY)
With a rise in the “supply” of viewers, especially during Spring and the first lockdown, delivered advertising impacts actually increased. Coupled with the slack market demand, this created a hugely favourable pricing dynamic through Q2 and Q3. For advertisers able to take advantage, it was an unprecedented opportunity to deliver cost-effective reach, frequency, and performance.

The top 20 TV advertisers featured only 2 “new” YoY entries
Nestle and Vodafone were the only advertisers who broke into the top of the charts. The remaining, prominent brands and organisations merely jostled for position.

The top 20 biggest increases included FMCG, retail, and home entertainment brands.
Unilever smashed it out of the park, almost tripling their impact delivery versus 2019. Their TV activity increased through Q2 and Q3 as lockdown forced diversion of spend away from channels such as cinema and out of home.

They were also super-aggressive in the autumn, backing up CFO Graeme Pitkethly’s comments to investors after H1 2020 results. He stated they planned to “invest heavily as lockdowns ease” and as “consumers learn to live with COVID-19.” They certainly delivered!

Tesco, P&G, and Nestle were the other FMCG and Retail brands also featuring in the Top 20 risers. All were a long way behind Unilever in terms of YoY growth. Central Govt (CCS) was unsurprisingly also prominent with wall-to-wall COVID-19 advice and information.

The rise of streaming and other in-home entertainment meant Sky was closely followed by the likes of ITV. Part of the broadcaster increases was also a result of less market demand. In other words, they appeared to fill their remnant space with their own ads! Disney’s showing was also significant as they promoted their new (well-timed, as it happened!) streaming service, Disney+.

The 20 biggest TV fallers mirror the wider economy’s struggles
As you’d expect, high street retail, travel, entertainment and leisure, and some financial services brands feature prominently in the biggest YoY decliners as specific sectors of the economy felt the brunt of the COVID-19 restrictions and dwindling public confidence.

Top 20 new or returning-to-TV advertisers puts Cazoo “miles” ahead
Whether using delivered TV Impacts or actual spend, Cazoo topped this category by a significant distance. Would the online car dealer’s push have been as big if COVID-19 hadn’t happened? Who knows! Yet they maximised the moment to great effect, investing 74% of their airtime in terrestrial ITV and C4 in particular.

The remaining advertisers included a cross-section of e-commerce and ‘to home’ products or services. TikTok saw huge increases in awareness and usage in 2020 as locked-down individuals looked for ways to entertain themselves and communicate with the outside world. The likes of Shpock, Vinted, and ManoMano were also very prominent as the retail landscape accelerated dramatically from high street to online.  They were joined by more specific offerings from Fever Tree, Step One, and AllBirds.

A nod to an All Response Media client too – Omaze. They were 4th amongst the new or returning group and continue to go from strength-to-strength in 2021.

75% of TV advertisers in 2020 spent below £1million …

… And 66% of advertisers spent below £500k. In total, 3,540 advertisers, encompassing many thousands of sub-brands, products, and services, utilised the powerful medium of TV in 2020.

This demonstrates the continued opportunity for businesses and brands of all sizes to test and validate the powerful medium of TV. With historically low pricing and increased flexibility from broadcasters through Q2 and Q3 especially, 2020 really was a rare opportunity to test for any enterprise that was able to capitalise.

All Response Media viewpoint

The linear TV market in the UK had its most turbulent year in memory (and my memory is long!). Yet, it showed remarkable resilience. Viewing increased as people were forced to stay at home and seek good quality information and entertainment. TV ad spend, or revenue took a huge hit overall but recovered quickly to normalised levels by around autumn. Although the types of sectors advertising on TV in 2020 saw some dramatic and enforced shifts, new businesses of all types continued to see the opportunity to invest. Be it relative pricing, the authority of the channel, or its scalability, TV remains a medium that can drive a variety of business objectives and evolves accordingly.

With three-quarters of advertisers investing under £1million per annum, it demonstrates that TV is not cost-prohibitive. It should be on the radar for every growing and ambitious business and it’s (almost) never too early to be considering its inclusion.

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