£1 billion more invested in TV advertising in 2021

  • TV advertising investment in the UK totaled £5.46 billion in 2021, up 24%, making it a record year
  • Online-born businesses invested £1.12 billion in TV, an increase of 42%
  • There were 1,286 new advertisers on TV in 2021, up 50% on the pre-pandemic average

TV advertising investment in the UK increased by over £1 billion in 2021 to reach a total of £5.46 billion, an increase of 24% on 2020 (and 11% up on pre-pandemic 2019). This represents a record level of investment in TV advertising. The previous high of £5.28 billion was in 2016.

The total, based on figures provided by the UK’s commercial broadcasters, includes all investment in all forms of TV advertising, linear and on demand.

Online-born businesses increased TV investment by 42%

According to data from Nielsen Ad Intel, all major advertising categories increased their TV investment in 2021, but the largest increase came from ‘online-born businesses’ – businesses that began online, with no prior bricks and mortar presence*. This trend was driven by a pandemic-led boom in ecommerce coupled with TV’s ability to drive immediate growth in web traffic and long-term brand fame.

Nielsen, which measures linear TV advertising spend, reported that these businesses invested £1.12 billion in TV advertising in 2021, an additional £335 million compared with 2020, up 42%.  They represented 20% of all linear TV advertising spend.

Within the world of online-born businesses, the largest-growing sub-category in 2021 was Food Delivery / Food Subscription, with TV advertising spend up £58 million year-on-year. This was followed by Online Marketplaces (up £35 million) and Finance (up £31 million). Please see the table at the end of this press release for more detail.

1,286 new advertisers on TV in 2021

Nielsen Ad Intel reported that, in 2021, 1,286 advertisers used TV for the first time, or returned after 5+ years away. This follows on from 1,243 new TV advertisers in 2020.

Between 2015-2019, the average number of new-to-TV advertisers a year was 841. The dramatic increase in the last two years (up 50%) demonstrates the increasing appeal of TV advertising to businesses of all shapes and sizes.

Verisure, the alarm system company, was the biggest new-to-TV advertiser, investing £10.9 million in 2021, according to Nielsen. Other notable new-to-TV advertisers include Boomin (online property search), which invested £8.4 million in TV; DeLonghi (home appliances), which spent £3.2 million; and Mowi (seafood), which spent £2.5 million.

TV benefitted from being more pandemic-proof

In 2021, TV advertising was fortunate to benefit from the continued pandemic-induced constraints on some other forms of advertising, notably out-of-home and cinema, where 2021 spend levels remained below 2019.

In 2021, according to Advertising Association/WARC figures, cinema advertising investment was up 70% year-on-year but remained down 69% compared with 2019. Out of home advertising was up 25% year-on-year in 2021 but down 33% on 2019.

Lindsey Clay

From start-ups to stalwarts, we’ve seen a remarkable surge in confidence in the effectiveness of TV advertising.

TV came back stronger in 2021 than anyone predicted – surpassing pre-pandemic investment levels – and there are many factors driving its return to growth.

Yes, the short-term bounce back from the pandemic, but also its revitalisation by new advertisers; established advertisers re-evaluating TV; and advanced advertising solutions making it an attractive investment for a wider range of businesses.

And we should acknowledge that the huge increase in advertiser demand last year, coupled with a return to pre-pandemic viewing patterns, meant that TV’s price increased. This will also have contributed to its growth.

Nonetheless, TV advertising remains incredible value. And what TV continues to offer advertisers is unrivalled: huge numbers watching on a big screen with the sound on in a high quality, brand-safe, fraud-free environment.

Lindsey Clay Thinkbox, CEO

Online-born businesses’ TV investment by sub-category

(Source: Nielsen Ad Intel)


Click here to enlarge the image in a new tab.

You might also like

Netflix: your questions (mostly) answered

We provide the lowdown on Netflix’s plans to introduce advertising to its platform.


Big Think at BAFTA 2022

Join us at BAFTA on Tuesday 14th of June as Big Think returns back to BAFTA with a whole host of brilliant thinkers from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines.


What to watch on Channel 4

Specialist pastry chefs start Bake Off: The Professionals. A group set off to escape the Hunted team. See six teams battle it out in George Clarke’s Flipping Fast and Big Boys begins.