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TV ad revenue in the UK totalled £5.11 billion in 2018

  • Online businesses remain biggest category of advertisers on TV
  • Online businesses increased spend by 7% year on year to £760 million
  • Amazon increased TV spend by 21% to £60 million to become third biggest individual TV spender
  • Finance brands increased TV spend by 18% to £378 million
  • In total, there were 867 new or returning advertisers on TV in 2018

TV advertising revenue in the UK totalled £5.11 billion in 2018, matching the amount invested in 2017, according to full year figures provided to Thinkbox by the UK commercial TV broadcasters.

Amazon increases TV spend by 21%

Collectively, online businesses remain the biggest category of advertisers on TV. Based on 2018 data from Nielsen, online businesses – including brands such as Google, Just Eat, and Trivago  – invested a total of £760 million in TV advertising, £47 million (7%) more than in 2017.*

The top 5 biggest spending categories on TV in 2018 according to Nielsen’s data were:

  1. Online businesses: £760 million (7% up year on year)
  2. Food: £534 million (3% down)
  3. Cosmetics & Personal Care: £437 million (1% up)
  4. Entertainment & Leisure: £380 million (no change)
  5. Finance: £378 million (18% up)

Of the increased investment by online businesses in 2018, Amazon was notable. According to Nielsen, it spent £60 million on TV advertising, up 21% year on year, making it the third biggest investor in TV advertising in the UK (previously it was fifth). Only Procter and Gamble (£169 million) and Reckitt Benckiser (£79 million) invested more in TV during 2018.

One of the reasons online businesses invest in TV advertising is the immediate impact it has online. For example, within the first week of Dollar Shave Club’s TV campaign in the UK,  branded online search grew by 570%, according to Google Trends data.

The increase in Finance advertising spend on TV was due in part to Capital One and VISA returning to TV advertising after a period of not spending on TV. This helped boost growth, alongside increased investment overall from many businesses in this sector.

TV advertising is now 21% cheaper than a decade ago

TV continues to deliver excellent value. In 2018, the average cost per thousand (CPT) for broadcast TV ad views was £5.13, up 1% on 2017 but 21% cheaper in real terms than 10 years ago. This figure only includes TV advertising that is watched from start to finish at normal speed – TV ads that are seen during any fast-forwarding are free to advertisers.

867 new or returning advertisers on TV

This figure represents the number of brands who advertised on TV for the first time in 2018 or returned to TV after a gap of at least five years. Notable new or returning brands included Vinted, Square, and Peloton cycles.


Lindsey Clay, Thinkbox CEO: “TV advertising put in a strong performance in 2018 given the challenging economic environment. TV remains the pre-eminent form of advertising, proven to outperform all others. TV is a trusted, high quality environment for brands, and we are seeing signs of money moving back to TV from lower quality online environments which can’t guarantee a safe environment for brands. It is a testament to TV’s continuing power to deliver that a company like Amazon, which understands its customers so well, is using TV to power its success.”

The total TV advertising figure of £5.11 billion represents all money invested by advertisers in commercial TV in the UK across all formats and screens: broadcast TV spot and sponsorship, Broadcaster VOD, addressable TV, interactive TV advertising, and product placement.

TV advertising facts at a glance:

  • Commercial TV reaches 89% of the UK every week (BARB, 2018), which grows to an estimated 95% if Broadcaster VOD is included (IPA Touchpoints & BARB, 2018)
  • An average broadcast TV campaign in the UK (of 400 TV ratings) gets 240 million views (BARB, 2018)**
  • TV advertising is responsible for 71% of total ad-generated profit, at the highest efficiency and for the least risk (Ebiquity/Gain Theory, ‘Profit Ability: the business case for advertising’, 2017)

Notes to editors

*‘Online businesses’ consists of advertising by all online-only brands and online services for bricks and mortar businesses.

** A TV ad ‘view’ relates to a single viewer watching a full TV ad at normal speed and with the sound likely to be on, as measured by The Broadcasters' Audience Research Board (BARB). It is not equivalent to a standard online video ad view (or impression) as defined by the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), which relates to a device playing a video for at least 2 seconds with at least 50% of its pixels visible on the screen.  

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