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Businesses that strengthened their commitment to TV advertising during pandemic

  • 619 UK advertisers increased their TV spend in 2020 despite economic pressure caused by pandemic
  • Of these, 142 advertisers increased their TV spend in the UK by over £1 million in 2020
  • Data from Nielsen shows that Unilever, eBay, EE, Samsung, and Tesco were among the biggest increasers
  • 89% of those that increased TV by over £1 million in 2020 have continued to increase TV spend in 2021

Advertising spend was decimated by the pandemic, with the UK’s ad market down by 7.2% in 2020. However, although many businesses were forced to cut their advertising budgets, new figures show that many significantly increased their investment in TV advertising in 2020 – and have continued in 2021.

According to data from Nielsen, a total of 619 advertisers in the UK increased their TV spend in 2020 compared with 2019 (representing 24% of all 2019’s TV advertisers). Of these, 142 advertisers increased their TV spend by over £1 million year-on-year.

The data excludes new-to-TV advertisers in 2020; it is based solely on existing TV advertisers that increased their investment.

In total, advertisers who increased their TV investment invested an extra £590 million in TV in 2020 on top of what they spent in 2019.

Notable businesses who increased their TV advertising spend in 2020 include:

  • Unilever: increased TV by 131% (+£66 million) to £116 million
  • eBay: increased TV by 117% (+£12 million) to £22 million
  • EE: increased TV by 67% (+£9 million) to £23 million
  • Samsung: increased TV by 41% (+£9 million) to £30 million
  • Tesco: increased TV by 23% (+£6 million) to £34 million

Increased confidence in 2021

In 2021, demand for TV advertising has surged, with the Advertising Association/WARC predicting that the total TV advertising market will be up by 22.9%, more than reversing the 11.8% overall decline in 2020.

Of the 142 advertisers that increased their TV investment in 2020 by over £1 million, the vast majority have continued to strengthen their commitment to TV in 2021. 89% have increased TV spend again in 2021 relative to 2019 levels, with 68% increasing TV by over 50%.

For example, according to Nielsen’s data, Unilever invested £59 million more in TV during January to September 2021 than they did during the same period in 2019, an increase of 142%. Tesco has increased TV by £9 million, a 69% increase; O2 is up £9 million (+112%); GoCompare is up by £4 million (+25%); and Zoopla has increased TV by £5 million (+194%).

Matt Hill, Thinkbox’s Research and Planning Director: “In 2020, when the price of TV dropped due to lower demand overall, the easy thing for advertisers to do would have been to maintain their usual level of TV exposure, but at a much lower level of investment. Some advertisers did this, understandably. Some had to stop advertising altogether. But what these figures show is that a large number of advertisers – especially big brands that were already significant TV investors – took advantage of the moment and the incredible value on offer to increase their TV exposure. And it looks like it paid off, as they have continued to increase their TV investment in 2021.”


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