Ad spend back to growth in March, early April data shows bookings surge

After two consecutive months of trending downwards, Australia’s media agency market recorded growth in ad spend for the month of March, with digital bookings leading the way.

Digital spend grew 15.6% year-on-year, with Standard Media Index (SMI) reporting the result came after a $166 million surge in late digital bookings. Programmatic media bookings rose 28%, while Social Media was up 20.1% and Search grew 16.5%.

Television remains a strong performer, as it has been so far this year, with a 7.2% jump in spend.

The continued investment in digital audio and podcasting by the likes of Australian Radio Network, Nova Entertainment and Southern Cross Austereo looks to be paying off, as spend in Digital Audio grew 18.6%. Radio bookings also rose slightly, up 0.4%.

SMI March 2021 Ad Spend [click to enlarge]

SMI managing director, Jane Ractliffe, said confirmed ad spend for the year to May was now just $900,000 below the month’s entire total, despite the period having barely begun.

“We’re now heading into unchartered territory as we’ve never before seen such huge growth in ad spend and expect to be reporting record levels of growth over the next few months, but of course it’s coming from an extremely low base.

“The numbers for April and May are already ‘mind-boggling’,” Ractfliffe added.

“…as the very early April numbers are already showing Food/Produce/Dairy advertisers growing budgets by 68% over last April, while the Home Furnishing/Appliances category is already up 129% in the early data and Gambling ad spend is up 162%.

“And SMI’s media subscribers with access to our Forward Pacings data can track exactly where this renewed ad spend is heading.”

Looking forward to April, early data from SMI saw segments such as radio and outdoor showing significant growth.

“Already we can see strong growth in key outdoor sectors in April with the early data showing retail outdoor ad spend already up 22%, street furniture bookings up 5% and outdoor transit bookings up 39%.

“Elsewhere, the metropolitan radio market will also book a huge April result with early ad spend data up 28%.”

SMI – Domestic & International Tourism Agency Ad Spend [click to enlarge]

SMI collected data for programmatic outdoor spend in March for the first time, plus sub-categories including TV Streaming Services and domestic tourism agencies (both reporting big increases in demand).

Ractliffe said: “We’ve split our government travel bureaux category into new domestic and international tourism agencies categories and it’s great timing as it clearly highlights the huge growth in domestic tourism marketing and of course the seismic decline of International marketing as the total travel category’s ad spend fell 9% in March.

“The companies benefitting most from the higher domestic tourism ad spend in March was Nine Entertainment, News Corporation, Facebook and then ViacomCBS [Ten].”


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