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January 28, 2022updated 30 Sep 2022 10:59am

AA/WARC: Record £30bn UK ad spend in 2021, but growth for publishers to slow this year

By Andrew Kersley

Total UK ad -spend for 2021 has been revised upwards to £29.7bn by AA/WARC, up from the industry body’s previous estimate for the year of £29.3bn.

The record total for UK ad-spend was also a record increase, up 26.4% year on year. The bounceback from pandemic-hit 2020 is set to continue next year, with predicted year-on-year growth of 8.5% to £32.2bn.

Figures for Q3 of 2021 from AA/WARC show publishing and news media segments out-performing Google in terms of year-on-year growth – with regional newspaper websites the fastest-growing sector.

Search, which is dominated by Google, grew by 19.7% in  Q3 2021.  The performance of other media segments are outlined in the graph below:

Ad-spend growth is forecast to slow substantially in 2022, with Google expected to outgrow most other segments this year. Magazines and regional newsbrands are forecast to lose advertising revenue this year, compared with 2021.

Search advertising is forecast to grow by 11.1% in 2022, with the performance of other industry segments outlined in the chart below:

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Advertising Association chief executive Stephen Woodford said: “UK advertising has seen a remarkable recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, racing ahead of key international markets with spend expected to cross the threshold of £30bn this year.

“A strong advertising market is a key indicator of the UK economy’s growth, with every £1 spent on advertising generating £6 of GDP.

“The latest AA/WARC report brings welcome news not just for our industry but for the wider economy, as advertising investment is a key lever for businesses to capture new markets and drive their recovery.”

WARC says the UK’s ad-spend bounce-back in 2021 was the largest across any major international ad market – including the USA, France and China – 12 percentage points ahead of the global average.

James McDonald, WARC’s director of data, intelligence and forecasting, said: “The latest verified data support our previous estimation that 2021 was the strongest year for the UK’s advertising market since monitoring began.

“Encouragingly this momentum appears to have sustained into the new year, with the impact of the Omicron variant on advertising trade appearing to be reasonably muted across the majority of sectors.

“While inflation is set to act as a headwind on both the consumer and media buyers alike in the coming months, we have little reason to believe that the UK’s ad market won't achieve growth of 8.5% this year – well ahead of the average recorded during the decade preceding the outbreak."

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