UK to Achieve World First as Half of Media Ad Spend Goes Digital - eMarketer

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UK to Achieve World First as Half of Media Ad Spend Goes Digital

UK digital advertising matches all other traditional formats combined

March 27, 2015

The UK will reach a major milestone this year, as it is set to become the first country in the world where digital media will take a 50% share of advertising spending, according to eMarketer’s latest media ad spending forecast. Norway and China will follow close behind, with digital grabbing a 45.0% and 43.6% share, respectively, of ad spending in each country. However, the UK will retain its lead by this measure until 2018, when digital’s portion of total ad spending in China will become the largest worldwide.

UK Total Media Ad Spending, by Media, 2013-2019 (millions of £, % of total and % change)

Total media spend in the UK is estimated to grow by 6.0% in 2015 to top £16.26 billion ($26.78 billion), with this being split equally between digital and all other traditional formats combined—TV, print, outdoor and radio. Ad spending on mobile and online devices will attract more than twice the ad spending that goes to TV, which will account for a 24.9% share this year, eMarketer estimates.

“Digital reaching the 50% threshold in the UK is a significant moment for the ad industry, and digital’s dominance is particularly interesting when compared with the global splits, as well as the splits in some other notable regions,” said Bill Fisher, analyst at eMarketer. “Digital accounts for a 29.6% share globally and just over 31% in the US, for example. The UK ad market is notable for its aggressive embrace of online advertising and its rapid adoption of mobile advertising. Because so much TV and radio programming appears ad-free in the UK, the comparative spending on digital channels has always been high. This year, though, we’re set to see digital reach an inflection point.”

Digital Ad Spending Share of Total Media Ad Spending Worldwide, by Country, 2013-2019 (% of total media ad spending)

In the UK, digital ad growth will be driven mostly by spending on mobile, which is expected to rise 45.0% this year to over £3.26 billion ($5.37 billion), up from about £1.18 billion ($1.94 billion) in 2013, eMarketer estimates. This year alone, mobile will account for 20.1% of total media spending in the UK, compared with 16.6% for print. In 2016, mobile will surpass TV’s total, at 25.6% of all spending vs. 24.1%.

Meanwhile, TV is expected to see ad spending rise 3.2% in the UK this year to more than £4.04 billion ($6.66 billion), although its overall share of the market will fall to less than half that of digital media. By 2018, digital’s share of UK total media ad spend will rise to 56.5%, compared with 22.4% for TV, eMarketer estimates.

The biggest casualty of the surge in UK digital advertising has been traditional print media, with newspapers and magazines struggling to hold on to their market share. This year, print advertising spending in the country is expected to fall 3.9% to less than £2.7 billion ($4.44 billion).

eMarketer bases all of its forecasts on a multipronged approach that focuses on both worldwide and local trends in the economy, technology and population, along with company-, product-, country- and demographic-specific trends, and trends in specific consumer behaviors. We analyze quantitative and qualitative data from a variety of research firms, government agencies, media outlets and company reports, weighting each piece of information based on methodology and soundness.

In addition, every element of each eMarketer forecast fits within the larger matrix of all its forecasts, with the same assumptions and general framework used to project figures in a wide variety of areas. Regular re-evaluation of each forecast means those assumptions and framework are constantly updated to reflect new market developments and other trends.

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