UK ad market to finally recover from recession

Spend on UK advertising will finally surpass pre-financial crisis levels next year as marketers turn to emerging formats on mobile, social media and native.


According to the latest expenditure report from the Advertising Association and Warc, UK ad spend growth hit a five-year high in 2015 of 7.5%, boosting overall spend to £20.1bn. And Warc research analyst James McDonald is forecasting a further 5.5% rise this year and in 2017, pushing total spend past its 2008 high.

“In real terms, after accounting for inflation, the UK ad market will surpass its pre-financial crisis level for the first time next year. This recovery, we believe, will have taken a decade happen,” he says.

The rise of mobile has triggered much of the growth and will account for “almost all of the new online ad money in 2016”, according to McDonald. Mobile saw spend increase by 61.1% last year and its growth rate is expected to quicken to closer to 70% in 2016.

Spend on social formats grew by 65% to £922m last year, with £517m of that spent on mobile. McDonald believes the importance of mobile to the UK ad industry “cannot be downplayed”.

He points out that spend on mobile display topped search for only the second time last year. “This suggests that emerging digital forms of advertising, such as native and social, are starting to hold sway with marketers,” he explains.

Traditional formats flourish

Cinema advertising saw spend rise 20.8%, marking a new high of £238m and surpassing its 2012 peak, as consumers flocked to watch box office hits including Spectre and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Internet ad spend was the second largest riser, increasing by 17.3% to £8.6bn compared to 2014, while TV ad spend rose 7.3% to £5.3bn. McDonald says TV continue to grow this year with big audiences expected for Euro 2016 and the Rio Olympics.

McDonald concludes: “Advertising spend on social formats will continue to grow apace, as marketers mirror media consumption habits, while native/advertorial content will be adopted as a combatant to ad blocking. The Euro 2016 football tournament in June will boost TV spot ad spend, and investment in mobile-specific formats will continue apace.

“The out of home sector will continue to benefit from increasing digital panel penetration, and the introduction of a new programmatic trading network. The phasing in of programmatic trade and addressable ad platforms should also provide a fillip for the TV sector.”

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here