'Bigger and bigger': Amazon attains top spot for UK adspend in 2021

Nielsen documented a 20% increase in adspend in 2021 following previous 17% decline.

Amazon: The online retailer's 2021 Christmas campaign was created by Lucky Generals.
Amazon: The online retailer's 2021 Christmas campaign was created by Lucky Generals.

Amazon became the UK’s number one advertiser by spend last year, climbing from third place in 2020, according to new figures released by Nielsen.

Out of the six media Nielsen’s new figures covered – TV, radio, press, out of home, cinema, and digital display (which excludes search and paid social) – Amazon reached the top five across TV (fifth), cinema (second), and digital display (second). 

Barney Farmer, Nielsen’s commercial director, said Amazon's advertising has "just gotten bigger and bigger and bigger".

Elsewhere in the top three were advertising heavyweights Procter & Gamble and Sky, in second and third respectively.

Overall, Nielsen documented a 20% increase in 2021 following a 17% decline from 2019 to 2020. Last year saw an almost complete recovery to pre-pandemic levels for the UK ad market, with UK adspend reaching £7.379bn, just short of 2019's £7.409bn. In 2020, spend had fallen to £6.156bn.

This was calculated according to overall ad spend, which included the media of TV, radio, press, and cinema. Outdoor advertising was not included because Nielsen's methodology for calculating its adspend changed in 2020, making direct year-on-year comparisons inaccurate.

Digital adspend has also not been included in the overall figures as the methodology and inclusion of different mediums included has changed and expanded.

TV was 2021's most popular medium, with £5.5bn being spent. This figure exceeded pre-pandemic and pandemic spend, with £4.9bn being spent in 2019 and £4.4bn being spent in 2020.

This figure comes after Nielsen’s 2021 Trust In Advertising Survey, found that TV was one of the most trusted sources of advertising messages.

Coming in a distant second, outdoor advertising drew £1.2bn spend in 2021, although it should be remembered that the methodology for calculating outdoor spend changed in 2020.

Radio spend for 2021 clocked in at £943m, once again exceeding pre-pandemic levels. In 2019, £837m was spent on radio advertising and in 2020, this took a downward turn to £777m.

Press has long been in decline as a form of advertising, with a high of £1.3bn in 2019. The government’s reliance on press ads during the pandemic bolstered its adspend, but it still dipped to £964m in 2020 and to £833m last year.

Unsurprisingly given that the nation was in lockdown, cinema suffered more than most as a medium during 2020, with cinemas closed for a good portion of the year. In 2019, £300m was spent on cinema ads, falling rapidly to £50m in 2020. In 2021, cinema started to recover attaining adspend of £102m.

Despite these traditional media being used prominently, digital advertising continues to flourish. In the fourth quarter alone, £1.1bn was spent on paid social media. 

The figure cannot be compared to previous years or quarters, as Nielsen only started gathering such data in 2021 and reworked its methodology throughout the year.

Farmer cited digital disruptors as brands such as Hello Fresh, Deliveroo, Cinch and Peleton, which made a dramatic first-place entrance into the top spenders list for digital display.

Farmer said: “Gousto, Hello Fresh, people have been using them more and more during the pandemic because they were at home. So it’s going to be interesting to see if people continue to use them or whether they’re going to be a bit more picky or choosy. Or, it could be that that trend is the way people want to live now.”

Farmer did note that with the cost of living crisis and recent developments in Ukraine, consumers may be more cautious.

“Consumers’ confidence is always a consideration. Advertisers pivot where they think the opportunities arise and where they think the consumer spending patterns are going to go.”

“I think we may find that people are going to be a bit more considerate with what they purchase and that always has a knock-on effect.

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