SMI: September lockdowns take toll on outdoor ad spend

Double-digit growth continues for TV and digital as both channels dominate September advertising spend

The latest SMI advertising figures for September are in and show the prolonged Covid-19 lockdowns across Sydney and Melbourne taking their toll on outdoor spend even as TV bucked up.

According to Standard Media Index (SMI), Australian advertising again recorded double-digit revenue growth in September, rising 15.5 per cent year-on-year. Of this, 94 per cent of returning ad spend was allocated to TV and digital channels.

TV was a strong performer, buoyed by the return of the AFL and NRL final series in their September timeframe. In all, total bookings were up 17.1 per cent year-on-year. Digital advertising was also up 20.1 per cent year-on-year, propelled by strong growth in search and social channels.

By contrast, lockdowns took their toll on outdoor as audiences reduced movement. Outdoor spend rose by just 3.8 per cent in September compared to the year prior. It’s the first month in five months that outdoor has not experienced double-digit gains.

“The Australian market has delivered another month of much improved advertising demand, but the month has been unusual given the very strong focus on the TV and Digital media,” SMI A/NZ managing director, Jane Ractliffe, said. “Radio, magazines and cinema media also all delivered double-digit growth in agency ad spend in September but the sheer size of the growth evident in TV and Digital – those two media accounted for 81.6 per cent of all ad spend – necessarily reduced the share this month of all other media.”

As a result, total market ad spend in September was down 9.3 per cent from the heights of September 2019. However, Ractliffe said if bookings to the lockdown-affected media of outdoor and cinema are removed, total ad spend is 0.6 per cent above that achieved two years ago.

“Now that the lockdowns are over and life in Melbourne and Sydney is finally returning to normal, we fully expect the outdoor and cinema media to quickly return to very strong levels of double-digit growth and create renewed competition for both the Television and Digital media when targeting large audiences,” Ractliffe said.

As has been evident for much of 2021, Ractliffe said SMI’s data continues to highlight the incredible recovery in the local ad market, with September quarter bookings up 29.4 per cent above the same quarter last year, and 4.6 per cent above the same quarter in September 2019. SMI noted bookings moved back through the $2 billion mark for the first time since the September 2018 quarter.

Across the calendar year-to-date period, total ad spend has grown 27 per cent to $5.9 billion, 0.4 per cent above the total recorded in the same period pre-Covid in 2019.

The September figures come off months of consecutive, stellar growth across Australia’s advertising bookings. In August, SMI reported ad spend for the first eight months of 2021 were up 1.2 per cent compared to the same period in 2019, and just $40m off the highest-recorded result for the period in 2018.

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