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News 6 Apr 2021 - 2 min read

SMI: TV takes back ad spend crown from digital as Search declines 8.4%

By Josh McDonnell - Senior Writer

Digital has been dethroned as quickly as it assumed the top spot for ad spending in January after TV reclaimed the top spot in February, according to SMI. TV revenue from agencies was up 8.5% for the month, bolstered primarily by the Australian Open, while digital had "patchy demand", growing by 1.2% - social and video were up while search posted a surprising decline. Overall, media agency bookings, which typically skew to larger SMEs and blue chips, was down 2.6% to $558m for February.

What you need to know:

  • Australia's media spend recovery continues, with SMI reporting a reduced year-on-year decline of 2.6% to $558m for February
  • Large year-on-year ad gains are expected for the rest of the year as comparables move to the start of 2020 Covid lockdowns    
  • TV reclaimed its position in February as the number one channel of choice, after losing to digital media in January
  • TV recorded an 8.5% increase in February, compared to the month prior, propped up by the delayed Aus Open broadcast.
  • Search spending fell 8.4%

Australia's media spend recovery has continued for the month of February, as SMI figures show ongoing improvements to year-on-year Covid declines.

However, agencies' investment in preferred media channels may highlight a "two-speed recovery" in the market, with TV and digital remaining the main channels of choice, while outdoor (-22.3%), radio (-10.9%) and cinema (-70%) all reported double digit declines again in February.

TV returned to pole position after being dethroned by digital media the month prior. TV recorded an 8.5% month-on-month increase in ad spend, bolstered by the delayed broadcast of the Australian Open.

Digital media growth, while still up, only reached 1.2% month-on-month growth, as an 8.4% decline in search spend heavily impacted the sector. The decline is a surprise for the digital media market, after SMI reported four consecutive months of double-digit growth.

"This month we’ve seen a large decline in finance-related spending across the Digital media, while other key categories such as Restaurants and Travel also dented overall Digital demand with reduced ad spending," SMI AUNZ MD Jane Ractliffe said.

"On the positive side, another interesting trend emerging in Digital is the return of spending to premium Content Sites with the total up 7% in February as companies such as Nine, News Corp, Spotify, ViacomCBS and eBay all enjoy strong growth in the value of their directly sold inventory."

Ractliffe also confirmed February's data release marked the completion of adding the IPG Mediabrands data back into its Australian database after a five-year hiatus.

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