UK government pandemic advertising tops £240m in 2020

UK government advertising in 2020 reached £163m (up 237%) with, on top of that, £80m from Public Health England (almost eight times the preceding year’s level) showing the ad impact of the Covid-19 epidemic.

Most of this was spent with creative agency MullenLowe and media agency Manning Gottlieb OMD.

In comparison with other pandemic costs – the Government’s misfiring Test and Trace system is estimated to have cost a staggering £37 billion – it doesn’t actually seem that much. The figures, measured by Nielsen, include outdoor, press, radio, TV and cinema advertising but not digital. So the total figure is no doubt higher.

Nielsen’s Top Ten is:

(Advertiser, estimated expenditure in 2020 (£), expenditure % year on year)

Grand Total: 7,275,444,852 (-19.14%)

1/ HM Government: 163,911,693 (237.58%)

2/ Unilever: 137,471,801 (76.40%)

3/Sky: 124,207,256 (-30.58%)

4/ Procter & Gamble: 117,235,523 (-15.82%)

5/McDonalds: 89,737,100 (140.73%)

6/Tesco: 81,149,315 (1.22%)

7/ Public Health England: 80,520,237 (796.15%)

8/Reckitt Benckiser: 75,156,506 (-10.89%)

9/ L’Oréal: 72,440,440 (7.37%)

!0/ Amazon: 67,298,052 (-40.48%)

So it’s pretty easy to see which businesses kept going through the pandemic.

By media, TV was down 11.32% at £4,357,996,821, Outdoor down 29.96% at $1,110,431,212, Press down 28.58% at £968,970,468, Radio down 6.97% at 783,150,896 and Cinema (cinemas have mostly been closed) down 81.65% at 54,895,455. Interesting that outdoor managed to keep its nose in front (just) of press and radio despite deserted cities and working from home.

Nielsen UK MD Barney Farmer says: “The last year has been one of huge uncertainty for advertisers and they have had to think carefully about how to adapt their ad strategies to continue connecting with consumers effectively.

“As a result, not only have we seen the UK Government increase advertising significantly to ensure vital public health messaging, we’ve also seen the biggest players in the advertising space hone in on data and insights available to them to ensure ad spend is as effective as possible.”

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