Karin von Abrams, Senior Analyst
Group M, the
media planning and buying agency owned by WPP Group, has forecast that spending
on Internet advertising in the UK will surpass spending on TV ads in 2009 - making
the UK the first of the world’s major economies to see TV spending overtaken by
The conclusion is
based on a predicted rise of almost 31% in online ad spending in 2008, compared
to 1% annual growth in TV ad spend.
This Group M forecast puts 2008 UK online ad spending at
£3.4 billion (with 65% coming from search). This total is slightly higher than
eMarketer’s most recent estimate (£3.24 billion). If eMarketer’s projection is
nearer the mark, it may be 2010, rather than 2009, before TV loses its top spot
in the UK pecking order. But the changing of the guard is not far off!
The Interactive Advertising Bureau “Online Advertising Study” published in October 2006 came to
very similar conclusions, estimating that Internet ad spending amounted to
10.5% of total media spend in the UK for the first half of 2006,
against television’s 22.7% and 11.4% for national press.
This tends to confirm that Britain now has a higher proportion of total spend online than any other country. (Globally, online spending averages just 5.8% of total ad spend, according to ZenithOptimedia.)
Of course the UK
media landscape is unusual. For one thing, the print sector remains pretty healthy.
Also, the phenomenal rise of the Internet has encouraged significant spending on
the Web by UK advertisers, and hard evidence of online successes breeds further
the dominance of television as an advertising vehicle is less pronounced in the
UK, because TV programming is not funded by advertising to the same extent that
it is in the US and elsewhere. The country’s
leading TV broadcaster, the BBC, was established with a “public service” remit,
and has always been supported chiefly by an annual license fee (in 2007, £135.50
for households with a color TV set, and £45.50 for black and white).
Nonetheless, the channels that do rely on advertising -
including (among others) terrestrial channels ITV1, ITV2, Channel 4 and Channel
Five, as well as cable and satellite broadcasters - have helped to ensure that
TV ads have a long and proud tradition in Britain. The fragmentation of TV
audiences in the UK is a real worry, because TV has been the leading medium for
advertising in the country for decades - since the explosion of
commercial advertising after World War Two.
The ratio of advertising to content on British TV is much
lower than in the US. A typical hour-long program will have at most four
commercial breaks, and one of these will rarely contain more than 5 or 6 ads. Yet TV is acknowledged to be the channel
that's most memorable for consumers, and often best for brand messages - at
Against this background, it's taken time for many of the
UK’s iconic household brands to even contemplate turning their back on TV. In
fact, they are not so much leaving this traditional channel, as scaling back
(especially when broadcasters can no longer promise consistently large
audiences). Brands of all kinds have had real success with online campaigns, or
integrated campaigns that cost far less than TV, now that their audiences
are transferring so much of their attention to the Web. That's the
trend that's set to continue.
The eMarketer UK Internet Users and Usage report will be published in February 2008. Click here to be notified when it is released.