The Drum Awards for Marketing APAC

-d -h -min -sec

Future of TV Media Planning and Buying TV Advertising

P&G, Sky and Unilever lead UK’s biggest spending TV advertisers in 2021


By John Glenday | Reporter

March 3, 2022 | 4 min read

TV is still the bedrock of UK ad spend, according to a new intelligence report compiled by measurement, data and analytics specialists Nielsen.

Sky Glass

Sky was a big spender on TV

Ad spend surges ahead

  • Nielsen Ad Intel characterizes TV as the lynchpin of a media economy that rebounded 20% last year following a 17% decline in 2020 – the year public health and advertising were upended.

TV remains in the ascendancy

  • Amid a broad uplift across entertainment, leisure, travel and tourism, television stands out from the rest, performing at its highest level since 2013 after a 26.1% jump saw ad spending hit £5.5bn.

  • Since the depths of the pandemic, a broad-based recovery has seen media ad spend across TV, radio, press, cinema and outdoor reach £8.48bn in 2021, with radio emerging as another surprise performer with growth of 21%.

  • Big spenders on the medium include P&G, Sky and Unilever, with Reckitt Benckiser and Amazon also opening their wallets to gain presence.

Press and cinema can’t cut a break

  • The impressive performance of both TV and radio has pushed ad spend above and beyond pre-pandemic levels in 2021, but this increase failed to offset declines across press and cinema.

  • The hard-hit cinema industry drew a crumb of comfort as ad spend nearly doubled compared to its 2020 nadir, but remains well below its pre-pandemic level of £300m.

  • In a similar vein, the press category extended its remorseless decline, ensuring that traditional media totals remain below the £9bn mark recorded in 2019.

What Nielsen says

  • Commercial director Barney Farmer said: “The UK’s media economy rebound in 2021 was impressive from the pullback in 2020. All media channels unsurprisingly experienced an uptick, but the increases were significant. TV and radio’s impressive performance is evidence that these channels of advertising remain a cornerstone of overall media plans for advertisers and the confidence in their ability to reach audiences and deliver value.

  • “High levels of advertising on linear TV channels is a sign of its fundamental strength against a backdrop of rising streaming platforms that are trying to win new advertising clients off linear competition. The pandemic helped linear TV’s success by providing the population with the perfect excuse to stay home and watch.”

What else do I need to know?

  • Elsewhere digital display continued a powerful run in 2021, with combined revenues of over £1bn across entertainment and leisure as well as computing and finance.

  • Paid social media also played its part with over £1.1bn lavished in the fourth quarter alone on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Future of TV Media Planning and Buying TV Advertising

More from Future of TV

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +