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News 1 Mar 2021 - 3 min read

SMI January: Digital wins as Aus Open delay puts 5.3% dent in TV takings

By Josh McDonnell - Senior Writer

Agency ad spend fell 7.3% year-on-year in January, as the delay to the Australian Open hit TV bookings. Digital media bookings increased slightly, up 1.8% on January 2020.

What you need to know:

  • Ad spend for January 2021 was back 7.3% year-on-year, according to the latest SMI figures.
  • The delayed Australian Open was a major contributor, leading to a 5.3% drop off in TV bookings.
  • Digital media spend was sole growth category, up 1.8% YoY.


The delayed Australian Open was a major factor in a 7.3% January decline in ads booked by agencies, per SMI data.

TV took a 5.3% hit in bookings for the month, and other traditional media channels struggled to find growth following a Christmas surge. Digital bookings grew 1.8%.

For the seven months of the financial year the market is back 6.8%. Over the same period, digital bookings are up 7.9%. 

Social media, programmatic and video all continued to report double-digit percentage growth as digital became the largest recipient of national marketer ad spend.

SMI is reporting pure Digital bookings - which includes all digital advertising also bought against the digital assets of traditional media. This grew from 11.1% in January 2011 to 37.6% in January 2021.

"Given the likely return to television growth for the rest of Q1 it will be interesting to see if this trend lasts beyond a single month, but at least for now the lack of the Australian Open combined with continued digital gains has seen the digital media emerge as Australia’s largest this month," SMI ANZ boss Jane Ractliffe said.

The most sizeable product category trends remain mostly Covid-related with Government bookings up 54%, health care category ad spend up 170% and the increase in food/produce/dairy ad spend now up 21% over the previous seven month period.

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