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Nielsen releases 2021 advertising figures

5 minute read | February 2022

London, March 2, 2022: Nielsen (NYSE: NLSN) has revealed advertising spending in the UK experienced strong growth in 2021, with TV advertising clearly standing out at its highest level since 2013.

Nielsen Ad Intel data shows the U.K. Media economy’s rebound is fueled by a 20% lift overall, following a 17%* decline in 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in media spend shrinkage.  Businesses stepped up their recovery plans coming out of the pandemic, with Computing, Retail, Travel & Transport, Entertainment & Leisure and Finance all recording significant spend increases compared to 2020. 

The year in review – fast facts and comment:

  • Nielsen ad spend figures show that, recovering from 2020, media ad spend across TV, radio, press, cinema, outdoor was £8.48 billion in 2021.  
  • TV ad spend was up 26.1% to £5.5 billion, a high since 2013, with its effective high levels of engagement and influence for advertisers.   
  • Radio recorded a similar strong growth of 21%, highlighting that it is still very effective. 
  • Cinema witnessed a double digit growth, whilst Press continued to decline. Cinema, as one of the worst hit sectors during the pandemic, is on course to its recovery. Ad spend nearly doubled compared to 2020, but is well off its pre-pandemic level of nearly £300m
  • The Outdoor industry had a good year with spend levels at £1.2bn.
  • Compared to 2019, TV and Radio ad spends surpassed pre-pandemic levels in 2021. However increased TV and radio ad spend failed to offset decreases in press and cinema. Ad spend on traditional media still lags behind the pre-pandemic level of £9.0 billion in 2019. 
  • This increase in TV advertising is no surprise given Nielsen’s 2021 Trust In Advertising Survey found that TV was one of the most trusted sources of advertising messages, with a high 62% of respondents trusting TV product placement somewhat or completely and 59% saying that they will sometimes or always take action after being exposed to TV advertising.

Commercial Director Barney Farmer commented: “The UK’s Media Economy rebound in 2021 was impressive from the pull back in 2020. All Media channels unsurprisingly experienced an up-tick but the increases were significant. TV and Radio’s impressive performance is evidence that these channels of advertising remain a cornerstone of overall media plans for advertisers and the confidence in their ability to reach audiences and deliver value.

“High levels of advertising on linear TV channels is a sign of its fundamental strength, against a backdrop of rising streaming platforms who are trying to win new advertising clients off linear competition. The pandemic helped linear TV’s success by providing the population with the perfect excuse to stay home and watch?”

  • Digital Display went from strength to strength during 2021 reporting a significant growth. Amongst which, Entertainment and Leisure, Computing and Finance continue the lead in the digital space, with a combined revenue of over £1 billion. 
  • As the pandemic accelerated the fast growth of new advertising and marketing opportunities in digital channels for brands expanded, paid social media spend had a strong finish in 2021, with over £1.1 billion spent in Q4 on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
  • In the digital space, along with the ecommerce giants such as Amazon and Ebay, Peloton made a dramatic 2021 entry into the top spending charts. As consumers are confined at home, home delivery or home gym has gone from a convenience to a necessity

Commercial Director Barney Farmer commented: “Clearly the pandemic helped tether us to our homes and this is reflected in the rise of sofa-based entertainment and eating from 2020 into 2021. With gyms closed Peloton saw its gap in the market and made a clever play to fill the fitness void with a robust spend in 2021.  It will be interesting to see if they maintain this into 2022 to keep us in a home-based exercise habit. They now have the ‘old’ habits of gym-based fitness regimes to compete with.”

  • Travel & Tourism saw significant uplift in spend from players such as TUI, Jet 2, Easyjet, Expedia and Whitbread Hotel Company. Showing a clear desire to break the pandemic shackles and start traveling again whether that be overseas or a UK staycation. Across all traditional media, ad spend on travel & transport increased to £382m, while yoy growth across TV, radio, press & cinema was 31%, with railway, hotels/B&B UK & self-catering categories all recording yoy growth of more than 100%.

Says Barney Farmer: “Humans need to explore and discover, it’s in our DNA. Too much time in one place and mental health suffers as we have seen over the pandemic. It’s easy to understand the up-tick in advertising spend from major holiday or hotel firms – they know we are all desperate to travel again.

“Marketers need to be closely connected with consumers. The pandemic created hybrid behaviors in how we work, shop and live. Consumers expect brands to keep up with the rapid pace.  For marketers, that means mapping every consumer touchpoint and applying a collection of insights to maximise their marketing spends, from TV to digital and beyond.  

“For 2022, we expect that traditional advertising channels will continue to be the trusted mediums for consumers. However, the continued explosion of digital advertising including paid social media and influencer marketing continues to really impact what we purchase and consume.”

About Nielsen

Nielsen shapes the world’s media and content as a global leader in audience measurement, data and analytics. Through our understanding of people and their behaviors across all channels and platforms, we empower our clients with independent and actionable intelligence so they can connect and engage with their audiences—now and into the future.

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