Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Industry reacts to AA/WARC Q3 ‘23 Expenditure  Report

UK marketing industry leaders have reacted to the publication of the latest quarterly data from the Advertising Association and WARC Expenditure Report, which showed that UK advertising spend rose by 15.9% across Q3 2023…

Andy Collins, Strategy Partner, Wavemaker UK

“New year often starts with positivity, and to a degree, that’s the case here. At a macro-level, the projected growth in adspend is positive, despite the ongoing challenges the UK economy faces. Delving a little deeper, there is a more nuanced picture to unpack. The growth in PPC and online display highlight a continued need for short-term response and a focus on channels that are intent-driven and/or targeted. So despite a boost in advertiser confidence, it looks to be coming with a caveat.

“There is however also positivity at the other end of the media spectrum, with continued growth in Cinema and OOH. The ‘Barbenheimer’ effect gave a massive boost to Cinema, whilst advertisers continue to value the power of OOH in a world of increasing fragmentation. The power of these shared, cultural experiences continue to provide huge opportunities for advertisers, and coupled with TV and VOD, remain as a potent counterpoint to the desire for short-term results.

“In a year of huge potential change, the results of a General Election and its interplay with the UK’s continued recovery from the Cost of Living crisis will have a big impact on adspend as we move through 2024. There are some tentpole moments for brands to engage with as the European Championships and Olympics take centre stage this summer but for the time being, the positivity reflected in the latest numbers provides an incredible canvas for delivering unrivalled work in 2024.”

Mark Geden, Head of Strategic Planning, Tribal Worldwide

Despite ongoing macro-economic volatility, the latest AA WARC and IPA Bellwether reports indicate a glimmer of hope for the marketing and advertising industry. UK ad spend has surged by 15.9%, surpassing expectations, largely propelled by search and online display. These positive indicators suggest that we may finally be emerging from the uncertainty that has clouded the past few years.

Notably, the timing of this increase in ad spend is unsurprising, given the anticipation surrounding major events such as the Olympic/Paralympic Games and UEFA EURO ’24. These events offer brands a unique opportunity to emotionally engage with expansive audiences, build trust, and create lasting memories that can drive purchasing decisions. As brands set their priorities for the next 12 months and beyond, we anticipate a growing number of them seizing this opportunity to enhance both their short-term performance and long-term brand strength. It is the combined effect of these efforts that will ultimately fuel growth and revenue.

Neil Cunningham, CEO, Cream

The latest AA WARC report is a nice reminder that it’s not all doom and gloom for UK advertising and that there is, in fact, light at the end of the tunnel.

Spend is up – and not just in one area. A plethora of channels, including search, online display, OOH, BVOD and cinema experienced growth in Q3, which is expected to continue throughout 2024. Brands are clearly understanding the value of the opportunities that come with investing in mixed media. And with yet another summer of sport on the horizon – cue the Olympics and the Men’s Euros – the power of mixed media mustn’t be overlooked.

However, this increased investment in advertising also means that the market will become even more crowded as brands fight for the attention of viewers. Bold creative decisions are required to stand out, make an impact and make their investment worthwhile.

Rik Moore, Managing Partner Strategy, The Kite Factory

These latest figures are hugely encouraging, particularly on the back of the positive Q4 2023 IPA Bellwether figures we saw last week. The ad industry is showing great resilience through this period of economic uncertainty.

With budgets tight, consumers are willing to shop around, meaning there’s huge opportunity to steal share. Marketers are protecting their budgets, to stay active and discoverable in market, to try and defend and ultimately win share.

As we heard at Cannes and through the IPA’s EffWorks conference in June, marketers’ greater understanding of the benefits of online are creating what has been termed a ‘third age of effectiveness’. Online is being deployed to help build brand as much as drive activation. Therefore, it is a key channel to reach consumers as they shop around, explaining this increased investment.

Steve Phillips, CEO and co-founder of Zappi

Optimism abounds in these latest figures even though that might feel out of kilter with the prevailing economic headwinds. While uncertainty can still lie around the corner, one of the great knowns of 2024 is that it should be a Summer of TV thanks to the bumper sporting events of the Olympics and Men’s Euros and a looming UK election.

With bigger budgets comes greater expectations for marketers. While these major events will draw massive attention, they will also be highly saturated with branded content. Brands need to ask themselves how they are going to stand out from the noise to drive brand recall and consideration – and make sure their content scores and doesn’t earn them a red card and an early dismissal.

Tom Ghiden, Managing Director at JOAN London

According to the most recent AA and WARC Report, UK advertising spending increased by 15.9% in Q3, surpassing £9 billion for the first time in this period. And the momentum is expected to continue through 2024. TV advertising in particular is predicted to have a comeback moment after a year of being in the red. Primarily driven by a 14.6% surge in broadcaster video on-demand (BVOD), due to major events like the Men’s Euros and the Summer Olympics taking place. This will be a great opportunity for brands to leverage creativity and capture consumer attention through strategic TV ad campaigns.

Brands need to successfully seize the opportunity of millions of eyeballs in front of a screen by having a clear message of what they are trying to convey, whether that’s adding a touch of joyful rebellion into their TV creative to boost brand recognition or lead with authenticity to relate to their target audience, especially in such hard economic times. It’s an exciting time for marketers to have fun and inspire on-screen.


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