There wasn’t a great deal of fuss made last week when the Advertising Association revealed the official UK ad revenue figures for 2012. It was quite a quiet revolution. But I think there should have been more fuss made. So here’s some I should have made earlier.
Firstly, the industry should congratulate the Advertising Association for listening to it – no mean feat when there are so many parties keen to express an opinion – and acting. This year they significantly changed how they report ad spend to better reflect the advertising landscape.
Big wow, you might say. The numbers have been cut slightly differently. Stop making such a fuss about it and tell me how awesome TV advertising is.
Well, TV advertising is awesome, but the change by the AA has made TV’s and other content media’s awesomeness more obvious. I’m putting words in their mouths here, but the AA has – tacitly at least – acknowledged that the internet is a technology, not a medium, and that it is used by many multi-platform media. So online revenue from newsbrands is now assigned to newsbrands, Broadcaster VOD revenue is assigned to TV, online magazine revenue is in the magazine brands pot.
They have made it far fairer and given credit where it is due. This makes sense. It is only right that the online ad revenues from high-quality content are given the right home, rather than living in the same cluttered box as search or social media advertising as they have previously. These are substantial and growing revenue streams now. We should all welcome the greater clarity. If nothing else, it makes it clearer how content media are expanding. The AA should be saluted for making the change.
Another reason for some fuss is the fact that UK ad spend hit £17 billion again for the first time since 2007. This is a remarkable moment. In real terms it is still a little behind 2007, but let’s not be churlish. Advertising is on the right course, and the AA has proven itself in recent years to be a steady hand on its tiller – not least through its vigorous lobbying on our behalf, its investment in proving the value of advertising to the UK economy (£100 billion in case you didn’t know), and the confident industry platform that its annual Lead conference has become.
Anyone familiar with Thinkbox and some of the points we have raised in recent years will not be surprised that we think the Advertising Association could go even further and stop reporting ‘the internet’ as a single advertising number. But that debate is ongoing. For the moment, we should recognise that their new approach to reporting ad revenue may look like a small step at first, but it is a giant leap in the right direction.