Facebook's top UK advertiser this year is a food start-up

Huel, a five-year-old direct-to-consumer brand, is outspending Microsoft, EE and Tesco.

Facebook: Huel and Microsoft are outspending rest of top 10 advertisers (source: Pathmatics)
Facebook: Huel and Microsoft are outspending rest of top 10 advertisers (source: Pathmatics)

Huel, the direct-to-consumer powdered-food brand, is the UK’s biggest advertiser on Facebook so far this year.

In the first six months of 2019, Huel spent $22m (£17.9m) on more than 400 unique creative executions on the social platform. These ads generated 2.5 billion impressions and were targeted at men, users of phones with Google’s Android operating system and people from London.

The findings were revealed by Pathmatics, a marketing intelligence company that provides data about advertising on Facebook in the UK and other key advertising markets.

The scale of Huel’s spend on Facebook this year reveals the extent to which D2C brands are prepared to pour their marketing budgets into online platforms at the expense of traditional channels. 

Huel, a UK-based brand founded in 2014 with a mission to make nutritionally complete food that is convenient and affordable, directs 100% of its digital adspend to Facebook, Pathmatics said.

Microsoft, the biggest spender on Facebook in the UK for the past 12 months (July 2018-June 2019), is a close second to Huel in terms of spend for the first half of 2019. The computing giant spent $20m on 10,400 unique creative executions, but generated more than two billion impressions.

In the UK this year, Microsoft has been running Facebook ads to promote initiatives preparing young peple for the "technology-driven world of tomorrow" and supporting business to expand their potential. 

Far behind in joint third is mobile operator EE, whose spend reached $11.5m in the six-month period. EE almost entirely runs link post ads (90% of its Facebook ads are of this type) and its messaging generally promotes the company’s fibre home broadband service, as well as mobile contract plans. Pathmatics said EE spends 71% of its total spend on Facebook.

Also in joint third is Tesco, the UK’s biggest supermarket. It spends the money differently: more than half (56%) of its Facebook ads are Carousel posts. Grocery rival Sainsbury's is not far behind in joint eighth place, with a spend of $10m over the period.

Top 10 UK Facebook advertisers – January-June

1 Huel
Spend: $22m
Impressions: 2.5 billion
Unique creatives: 400

2 Microsoft 
Spend: $20m
Impressions: two billion
Unique creatives: 10,400

3= EE
Spend: $11.5m
Impressions: one billion
Unique creatives: 400

3= Tesco
Spend: $11.5m
Impressions: one billion
Unique creatives: 1,200

5 Procter & Gamble
Spend: $11m
Impressions: one billion
Unique creatives: 1,600

6= Nestlé
Spend: $10.5m
Impressions: one billion
Unique creatives: 1,200

6= SumUp
Spend: $10.5m
Impressions: one billion
Unique creatives: 400

8= Sainsbury’s
Spend: $10m
Impressions: one billion
Unique creatives: 500 

8= Vodafone
Spend: $10m
Impressions: one billion
Unique creatives: 1,900

8= Just Eat
Spend: $10m
Impressions: one billion
Unique creatives: 2,200