Radio adspend recovers to pre-pandemic levels

Commercial radio: experienced its highest-ever audience in terms of reach during lockdown [Image: Radiocentre]
Commercial radio: experienced its highest-ever audience in terms of reach during lockdown [Image: Radiocentre]

Healthy outlook for radio ad revenues, while cinema and OOH take smaller positive steps.

Spending on radio ads has overtaken levels seen before the pandemic, with the channel’s revenue expanding by more than 5% since 2019, according to latest data.

Radio display ads will attract £731m of spend in 2022, according to Enders Analysis, up from £693m in 2019. 

The healthy figures for radio showcase a significant recovery since adspend tailed off to £577m in 2020.


However, spend is not evenly distributed, with local ad revenues not as buoyant as national adspend. 

The “general positive momentum” around radio is bolstered by a high level of commercial radio listening and radio’s effectiveness for brand-building and direct response, according to the report. 

Commercial radio’s amplitude has been growing during the Covid pandemic, according to Rajar figures published in October 2021, which found audiences swelled by 500,000 listeners. 

Commercial radio now attracts 36.8 million listeners each week, which is 2.2 million listeners ahead of the BBC’s radio audience.

Industry experts have pointed to digital offering opportunities for targeted engagement, with Radiocentre chief operating officer Matt Payton explaining that while the “vast majority of advertisers [are] investing in spot ads on linear radio… the fastest-growing commercial line is for digital”. 

The Enders Analysis research stated: “The transition to digital alongside the growth of the smart speaker market has enabled broadcasters to benefit from tighter targeting with the use of first party data, while ad technology enables addressable and interactive advertising."

It added: “Digital ad formats are sold at a premium to linear and as listening moves more online this will enable broadcasters to increase yield in real terms, a feat not achieved for many years.” 

Meanwhile, ad revenues for cinema and out of home have yet to fully recover from the downturn caused by the pandemic.

Although cinema is now forecast to reach an adspend of £159m this year, after hitting a £55m low point in 2020, revenue is still way off the £299m achieved in 2019.

Similarly, OOH might be seeing green shoots in 2022, with a forecast total adspend of almost £1.14bn, up from an estimated £907m last year, but this is still almost 13% down on 2019’s £1.3bn revenue.

The OOH recovery is driven largely by digital out of home, which accounted for 64% of OOH spend in 2021, a proportion that will increase to 66% in 2022, Enders said. 

The report added: “Advertisers have been more willing to book digital OOH campaigns due to greater planning flexibility, such as the ability to switch from a city centre to local high street due to changing footfall, or to adapt messaging based on new commuting peaks.

“Traditional OOH is also expected to grow, but at a slower pace. These paper sites account for over 95% of inventory, but far less of the value as all premium sites are digitised, while new sites are almost all digital.”

The Enders Analysis report shows an overall picture of robust growth in display adspend, with total annual revenue forecast at £17.86bn for 2022.

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