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Sky topples P&G as biggest UK traditional media ad spender while market constricts


By John McCarthy | Opinion editor

April 23, 2018 | 4 min read

Sky dethroned P&G in UK traditional media ad spend in 2017, according to research from Nielsen. Nonetheless, spend on the likes of cinema, direct mail, door drops, outdoor, press, radio and TV advertising was down by 3.5%.

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Lamar Advertising in US shows P&G CMO power of OOH

Traditional media comprised 60% of all UK marketing spend, constricting faster than an industry-wide spend reduction of around 2.5% or £258.1m.

Many in the industry tout the benefits of mobile and digital spend, but leading a counterargument is P&G CMO Marc Pritchard who questions digital, largely whether brands are getting the ads they paid for, where they paid for it.

There is even an argument to be made that physical media offers the brand safe environment many marketers are keen for. This conflict is apparent in the results, some top brands in the UK doubled down with traditional media, while others drastically reduced spend.

Edelman’s Trust Barometer for example found that trust in traditional media was up in 2018, following a substantial slump. Search engines and social media suffered the inverse. This might be reflected in 2018's spend.

Pay TV provider Sky increased its year-on-year spend by 2.7% to £197.1m, overtaking Marc Pritchard’s FMCG giant P&G by a thin margin. It clocked in at £196.8m, spend fell by 1.4%. Pritchard has been open about wanting to drastically reduce agency partners, and the sheer volume of creative being put out there by the company.

At the opening of 2017, US-based out of home ad company Lamar Advertising literally ran OOH creative targeted at the CMO, urging him to up his spend in traditional media (it can be seen above).

In third place was Sky rival BT which dropped its spend 3.8% to £144.1m.

Unilever came in fourth at £166.8m (+11.3%), followed by McDonald’s at £96.2m (+10.7%), Tesco (£89.5m, +71.6%), Reckitt Benckiser (£88.2m, -16.7%), Virgin Media (£72.1m, -30.1%), Lidl (£71.1m, -3.8%) and Samsung (£66.6m, +43.5%).

Barney Farmer, Nielsen’s UK commercial director, said: “It was quite a chalk and cheese year in terms of how the very biggest advertisers changed their emphasis on traditional advertising.

“Half spent more, half spent less, with the likes of Tesco and Samsung ramping up spend dramatically, in complete contrast to that of Virgin and Aldi. Of course, the differences are due to many factors including the competitive state of their sector, the changing allocation towards digital but also the wider uncertainty caused by Brexit. Thus, it's hard to pick out an overarching trend other than the advertising dominance of the home media/telecoms providers and household goods manufacturers.”

Tesco and Samsung had the largest swelling in investment in this space at, up 71.6% (£89.5m) and 43.5% (£66.6m) respectively.

Aldi and Virgin Media suffered the biggest drop in traditional media spend in the UK in 2017, down 32.0% (£22m) and 30.1% (£31m) respectively.

Waitrose, and even Google (which remember owns the world’s most comprehensive digital ad network) were among those with the biggest percentage rise in traditional ad spend.

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