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UK advertising clocks up £36.6bn in 2023

AA/WARC survey says online now accounts for three quarters

The latest Advertising Association/WARC Expenditure Report shows that the UK’s ad market recorded a 6.1% increase to a total of £36.6bn in 2023, the 13th annual expansion recorded in the last 14 years. The new survey data also shows that online formats now account for over three-quarters of all UK ad spend for the first time.

New AA/WARC forecasts show advertising spend will rise by 5.8% to reach £38.8bn this year, though this represents a minor (-0.1%) downgrade from January’s forecast owing to prolonged inflationary pressures on the market. Further growth – of 4.5% – is expected in 2025, by when the UK’s ad market will be worth more than £40bn.

Compared to Europe’s largest advertising markets, the UK’s advertising industry outpaced Germany (-0.7%), France (+2.1%) and Ireland (+3.0%) last year, and is expected to repeat this in 2024. The UK’s is on course to end the year some $20bn larger than those of its closest neighbours.

While UK ad spend grew by 6.1% last year, this equated to a 1.2% contraction in real terms after accounting for high inflation, a rate which slightly lagged the flat (+0.1%) activity witnessed across the UK’s economy last year.
As estimated in January, online formats combined grew by 11% to reach a total of £28.7bn in 2023, equivalent to 78.4% of all UK ad spend last year. Beyond this, out of home (+9.7%) was the only other advertising medium to record growth in 2023.

Projections for 2024 and 2025

The latest AA/WARC dataset expects the UK advertising market to grow 5.8% to reach nearly £39bn in 2024. Broadcast media, most notably TV (+2.6%) and radio (+2.3%) are expected to return to growth, while the same is true for cinema (+2.5%). Among digital formats, search (+8.9%) and online display (+6.4%) are again set to see the strongest rises, closing the year with a combined share of 77% of all spend.

AA CEO Stephen Woodford says: “The continued shift to online advertising formats reflects the changing shape of our economy, with people increasingly shopping online as well as on the high street, and businesses striving to provide the best customer experience in all scenarios. The UK advertising industry is much respected around the world, which is why we continue to see the exports of UK advertising services grow, an important source of additional revenue for many advertising businesses in a domestic economy that has little-to-no growth.”

WARC’s James McDonald says: “Our latest survey of media owners confirms 2023 as a challenging year for most, with few properties recording gains and spend instead further consolidating within search and online display formats – particularly social media. Combined, these digital staples are on course to account for almost four in five pounds spent on advertising in the UK next year, up from a share of 51% just five years ago.

“Our forecasts assume that the UK’s economy will begin to break from the pattern of stagnation that has come to define recent quarters. Easing inflation over the coming 18 months should encourage more favourable trading conditions within the advertising sector, facilitating growth across a broader range of channels in turn.”

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