Post COVID bounce back heralds a record high for August: SMI

Australia’s media Agency market has continued its extraordinary rebound from the COVID pandemic in August according to the latest figures from Standard Media Index.

The value of national marketer ad spend has hit a record high, after soaring 26.6% from August last year, to deliver a result that’s up 11.6% on 2019 levels and 4.1% above August 2018.

Incredibly, SMI is now reporting the value of ad spend for the first eight months of this calendar year to be 1.2% or $62 million above the same period in 2019 and just 0.8% ($40 million) below the all-time market high achieved for this period in 2018.

SMI AU/NZ Managing Director Jane Ractliffe says this was the sixth consecutive month of year-on-year growth and while the result was boosted by a week of the Tokyo Olympics broadcast it’s also clear that underlying ad demand was robust.

Ractliffe says, “Never would anyone have expected the Australian ad market to be hitting a record high so soon after such a prolonged advertising recession, and also while our two largest states remain in lockdown.

“But not only are we seeing a record month of ad spend in August we can also see with the SMI Forward Pacings data that the growth will continue into September with ad spend already 5% above last year’s September result (ex Digital).”

Ractliffe says the Digital and arguably TV media are both reporting record levels of August ad spend, with Digital bookings up 28.6% year-on-year and TV bookings up 29% to break through the $300m mark in August for the first time since the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Radio is up by 21.9%.

She says, “But the difference with the Rio Olympics is they were held across the full month of August while the Tokyo Olympics were split between the end of July and the start of August, with that timing issue meaning the 2021 August TV result is at a record level.

“And while Seven’s broadcast TV bookings obviously soared, this time we also saw a huge increase in bookings the related streaming service with many agencies booking directly to ensure their spot on that platform rather than buying BVOD bookings programmatically as is the usual case with that inventory.”

Ractliffe says the underlying market strength was evident in the fact that all of SMI’s ten largest product categories are reporting levels of media investment well above pre-COVID levels in August, with only six categories reporting any decline.

Ongoing COVID messaging ensured the Government category again delivered the strongest percentage growth in August (+94.5% YOY) to emerge as the third largest category in the month, while the important Automotive Brand category also continued its recovery with ad spend lifting 11.6% in August to now be +19% for the first two months of the financial year.

But the extended NSW and Victorian lockdowns have blunted the earlier recovery seen in Travel category ad spend, with the total this month just $5 million higher making this former Top 10-spending category just the 23rd largest for the month.

Ractliffe says “Ad spend for the Live Entertainment market is also struggling to recover due to the lockdowns and is back another 18% in August, while on the flipside the continued growth in streaming TV services is pushing the In Home Entertainment category’s ad spend up 55% while growth in food delivery services continues to grow the Restaurants category with the total up 32%.”

But the broader market is now strongly in front of where it was over the same eight month period in 2019, with the extent of the recovery underscored by the fact that more than $1 billion in ad spend has returned to the market over this period with the total up 27.8%.

Also this month, SMI is pleased to welcome two new independent agencies to the SMI Australian data pool with current and historic ad spend now included for the Customedia and MediaSmiths agencies.

More detail on individual media trends and Forward Pacings can be found below:

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