'Things feel like they are rallying': TV adspend set to begin recovery in October

Within a few weeks of seeing 'bleak' forecasts for the end of 2020, buyers and broadcasters expect the TV market to turn a corner this month.

Apple: influx of TV advertising expected with launch of new iPhones (Picture: Getty)
Apple: influx of TV advertising expected with launch of new iPhones (Picture: Getty)

The TV ad market is expected to fare better than expected in October and the coming months as UK advertiser confidence seems to have returned following this year’s pandemic.

Several broadcaster and agency sources have confirmed to Campaign that they now expect spend on October to be between flat and 1% up year on year. 

A source at ITV described Q4 as looking “positive”, while a Channel 4 source described its October market forecast as “flat or very close to low single digits”.

“The doom and gloom has moved much faster than we anticipated,” the Channel 4 source added. “It feels consistent across Europe that people are now saying: ‘We have to advertise and can’t wait around forever.’”

A return to even minimal spend growth would be a boon for the TV advertising sector, which was forecast to be down 15% in 2020 and down 2% in the last three months of the year, according to the latest Warc/Advertising Association forecasts.

Ian Stevens, head of media at WPP’s Wavemaker, expects TV spend to be “par” in October and that “things feel like they are rallying”, because only a few weeks ago, forecasts for Q4 had looked much bleaker. 

“Government spend is a big factor, even though they spent a lot this time last year,” Stevens told Campaign. “I also believe that monies deferred by advertisers earlier in the year are coming back strongly in October. TV [is] also possibly the beneficiary of monies associated with other offline channels sat on the fence, for example out-of-home and cinema.” 

Last month Campaign revealed how buyers were dismayed at a lack of "back to school" spending in September, although TV was said to be outperforming other channels as marketer confidence appeared to be returning. Agency estimates seen by Campaign suggest the TV market was down by between 2% and 4% in September – much better than the 14% drop that was estimated previously.

TV spend has also become more unpredictable due to broadcasters suspending many late-booking fees, which has encouraged some advertisers to book last-minute campaigns. 

Then there are the production challenges which can disrupt programming schedules. Today (13 October) ITV’s flagship weekend primetime talent show Britain’s Got Talent was forced to halt production of its Christmas special a day before filming after a crew member tested positive for Covid-19. 

A Publicis Media executive, who asked not to be named, agreed TV had seen an improvement in the past week, largely driven by increased spend from tech companies – particularly Apple and Amazon. Apple, which is unveiling its new iPhone later today, is expected to spend significantly in the coming weeks, while Amazon is set to promote its Autumn Nations Cup rugby coverage in addition to pre-Christmas marketing activity.

The person said: “October could well go flat… we’re not quite there yet but there definitely feels more buzz. The only caveat is what’s happened this week [the government’s new tiered lockdown proposals] – it might slow down, but as long as the shops stay open, then we think we’ll be OK.”

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