UK ad expenditure leaps in surprise Q1 – radio is the star

Um, what exactly is going on here?

Some people say that advertising is divorced from reality and the latest UK ad expenditure figures might underline that view.

According to the Advertising Association/WARC UK advertising scored its 19th consecutive quarter of market growth with a 5.9 per cent increase year-on-year in Q1 2018, 1.3 per cent ahead of forecasts. AA/WARC is now predicting 4.8 per cent growth this year and 4.5 per cent in 2019.

The unlikely medium of radio was the strongest performer – up a whopping 12.5 per cent – followed by Out of Home (up 5.3 per cent) and TV (five per cent). Even print advertising edged ahead. Display formats performed most strongly. Digital continues to grow but less fast with search accounting for about a third of the market.

Is a rebalancing under way after digital, especially mobile, appeared to be carrying all before it?

It would be nice to think so but just as noteworthy is the buoyancy of the sector as a whole, in an environment where a looming no-deal Brexit is sparking stories of consumers and retailers stockpiling cans of food.

Advertisers in the UK seem to have other ideas. Growing ad expenditure usually reflects growing profits and it’s hard at this point to see where these are coming from. Some US companies have seen a big boost from the Trump tax cuts and the big tech firms are spending far more on traditional advertising, in part to try to counter their mushrooming PR problems.

UK media owners won’t be complaining, wherever the unlikely ad boom is coming from.

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AA advertising association UK ad expenditure

About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.
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