Industry sees slow and steady post-covid recovery

AA/WARC report shows UK advertising spending rose by 4.3% to a total of £8.5bn between July and September 2022

Georgie Moreton

Assistant Editor, BITE Creativebrief


It’s no secret that economic hardships are impacting every sector and the advertising industry is no exception. Yet, the latest quarterly data from the Advertising Association / WARC Expenditure Report shows that UK advertising spending rose by 4.3% to a total of £8.5bn between July and September 2022. This represents a small but steady growth for the ninth consecutive quarter, pointing to evidence of an ongoing, resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic for the sector.

Against a backdrop of high levels of inflation, a consumer confidence crisis, war in Ukraine and an unstable political environment, the UK’s ad market has shown its ability to hold strong for its ability to communicate with consumers during hardships. As a result, the UK ad market is expected to grow a further modest 3.8% this year, totaling £36.1bn and following on from an estimated 8.8% rise in 2022.

Yet while growth continues when accounting for inflation figures actually equate to a 3.0% real terms decline. Forecasts for the coming year show reduced growth expectations for almost all sectors of advertising in line with pressures felt by all parts of the economy.

“The UK advertising industry has held firm in its continued recovery from the COVID pandemic, with ad investment holding up in the face of significant headwinds. However, the economic pressures of 2022 including high inflation’s impacts on the wider economy and on media costs means in real terms spend is likely to be flat. These pressures all contribute to slower growth projections for the year ahead.” explained Stephen Woodford, Chief Executive of, Advertising Association.

Yet, where recession is concerned, continuing to invest in consumer communication is vital as Woodford added: “Advertising plays a vital role in helping brands communicate with their customers and navigate the cost-of-living pressures that everyone faces.” The industry is in pole position to help both businesses and consumers whether the tumultuous economic landscape. 

Stable recovery

Actual figures released by the Advertising Association/WARC for the first nine months of 2022 confirm that growth was up by 10.8%, with the total figure standing at £25.3bn. 

Out of Home (OOH) and cinema continued their strong recovery during Q3, where after suffering the most drastic hits during the Covid pandemic, the sectors see healthy return and prove to be popular and effective with audiences. Search  also rose 7.7%, equating to almost 40% of total ad spend during the quarter.

Social media, included within online display, continued growing (+4.4%), while broadcast video-on-demand (BVOD) spend rose by 4.3%. As these sectors continue to hold a strong position, post-pandemic media habits might have levelled out but behavioural shifts maintain growth.

The end of 2022 was predicted to be a ‘golden quarter’ (Q4 2022) and spend during this time was estimated to have grown by 4.0%, to a total of £9.5bn. As the winter period hosted the two biggest events for ad spend, Christmas and the FIFA Men’s World Cup, growth was still half a point behind previous forecasts but nonetheless on the up.

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