Adspend in entertainment, travel and telecoms plummets in March

Fall across three sectors wipes out increases in food and government advertising.

EasyJet: travel and transport saw biggest fall in spending in March
EasyJet: travel and transport saw biggest fall in spending in March

UK traditional adspend across three major sectors fell by £43.3m in March, according to Nielsen data, illustrating the immediate impact on the economy from the start of the UK's lockdown.

The decline helped to push overall spend for the month down 5.7% to £583.4m – a fall of £35.3m. 

The travel and transport sector was unsurprisingly the most severely affected, with spend down almost half (48.1%, or £22.1m) to £23.8m. The next biggest overall drop came in entertainment and leisure, down 18.9%, or £13.4m, to £57.5m, followed by telecoms, down 15.8% (£7.8m) to £41.6m.

The fall across the three sectors was enough to wipe out significant spending increases in food (up 16.2% to £56.2m) and government, social and political organisations (up 18.5% to £42.8m), and other sectors including household FMCG, computers and online retail.

Nielsen said advertisers in total spent £412m on TV in March, thanks to a strong start to the month before the UK’s lockdown began. According to the latest Advertising Association/Warc Expenditure Report, TV spend is set to fall 46.6% during the second quarter and 19.8% across 2020.

With a spend of £10m during March, Unilever was the biggest advertiser on TV, followed by FMCG rival Procter & Gamble (£9.4m). Unilever was the seventh-biggest traditional advertiser in 2019, while P&G fell from first to third, after cutting spend by more than a quarter last year.

NHS England spent £3.9m on TV advertising in March, while Asda, Aldi and Tesco spent £3.7m, £3m and £2.1m respectively.

Barney Farmer, UK commercial director at Nielsen, said: "Looking ahead to the coming months, it’s clear these March results represent just the beginning of the shifts in spend we will continue to see. The question of which ad sectors will return and how much advertising spend will be injected back into the market will depend on many factors – the most important of which will be the government’s guidance on what, when and how we can move about freely. 

"The travel and tourism sectors, for example, which are typically big ad spenders, will be waiting to see whether people can book or take summer holidays both at home and abroad. This will determine the marketing messages being run – or potentially lack of them."