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Insight: UK Government was leading advertiser in the UK for 2020 with £164M in ad spend

LONDON, UK — Governments around the world scrambled to protect their citizens when the Coronavirus pandemic broke out at the beginning of 2020. A key strategy that was used in the UK was to use widespread public information campaigns through the use of different forms of advertising with the aim to reach as many of their citizens as possible. According to data presented by, The UK Government was the leading advertiser in the UK for 2020 with a total spend of £164M, ahead of private sector giants Unilever and Sky.

UK Becomes Leading Advertiser In UK For 2020 In Direct Response To COVID-19
The last global pandemic occurred more than a century prior to 2020, and the challenges faced with COVID-19 are unprecedented in their nature. The dissemination of vital information throughout the pandemic was seen as key by the UK government. As a result, Her Majesty’s Government spent £163.91M on advertising making it the leading advertiser in the UK for 2020.

The appearance of Public Health England as the seventh leading advertiser is further evidence of the UK government’s clear efforts to keep the public informed. Public Health of England’s ad spend of £80.52M was almost an 800% YoY increase from its ad spend from the previous year. This is the largest increase in advertising budget from any organization. Despite the government investing significantly in advertising, ad spend for the entire top ten advertisers collectively decreased by 20% YoY. It is estimated that net advertising spending in the UK declined by 4.4% in 2020 amounting to £21B.


Private Sector Pulled Back on Ad Spend Due To COVID-19 Pandemic
Mcdonalds, Amazon and Sky had the largest YoY decrease in ad spend out of all the companies on the 2020 top 10 advertisers list with a decrease of 41%, 40%, and 31% respectively. Lockdowns restricted mobility around the world giving little onus for companies to purchase out-of-home adverting. Sky’s more conservative ad spend in 2020 saw them d

During the initial outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic in the Uk from March to April advertising in tube and railways stations dropped by more than 90%. Roadside advertising dropped by 76% while advertising in the exteriors of Supermarkets dropped by 56%.

Unilever Defied The Trend And Increased Ad Spend in 2020
Dutch-Anglo consumer goods company, Unilever was the second-largest advertiser in the UK for 2020 with spending of £137.47 – a 76% YoY increase. Unilever’s less conservative ad spending allowed it to surpass Sky in the rankings, 2019’s leading advertiser in the UK. One of Unilever’s main competitors, Procter & Gamble took a less aggressive approach and decreased ad spend by 16% to £117.24M, making it the fourth-largest advertiser in the UK.

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