Exposure to TV ads up 15% during height of lockdown

Even children were watching more broadcast TV and exposed to a greater volume of advertising in the weeks following the lockdown in March.

TV: viewers' exposure to ads was up, including for younger people
TV: viewers' exposure to ads was up, including for younger people

The amount of time that TV viewers were exposed to ads rose by more than 15% during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK, despite significant falls in advertising for travel brands, cinema releases and hospitality. 

Driven by a 20% increase in TV viewing hours for the weeks following the UK announced “lockdown” measures in mid-March, TV ad exposure rose by 15.6% from 16 March to 2 May, according to analysis from the Advertising Standards Authority. 

Compared with the period in 2020 before lockdown, TV viewing rose by 12%, and was up for all age groups, including an 18.3% increase for 10- to 15-year-olds.

There was a significant drop in exposure to ads for sectors adversely impacted by Covid-19, including cinema releases, bars and restaurants and travel brands. Meanwhile, there was an increase in exposure to government/social campaigns, food-related brand building ads, driven by increased corporate responsibility messaging from supermarkets. 

Some ads demonstrated changing behavioiurs during the pandemic, such as a hike in exposure for haircare, oral hygeine and household cleaning supplies. 

The ASA analysis, based on Barb data, echoes Ofcom’s recent Media Nations 2020 report which found that, in April, British people spent an average of six hours and 25 minutes each day watching TV and online video content. The BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 saw their combined audience share rise to its highest level in six years.

The data only includes broadcast television and covers the first 18 weeks of 2020 (up to 3 May), compared to the same period in 2019.