When you look at the rest of the world, the UK reaching a 50:50 balance makes it years "ahead" -- from a digital perspective -- because in the U.S., West Europe and globally, digital accounts for 28%, 34%, and 30% respectively. The reason is more rapid digital growth in the UK -- of 9.5% in 2015 -- and television having a smaller slice of the pie. This year television will account for around a quarter of overall advertising in the UK -- whereas in the U.S., for example, it is up at 42%, globally it's at 39%.
Now it would be really easy to say that digital's growth is a product of advertisers leaving television, which they find is too expensive and not targetted enough. But I've always suspected this is a line you hear when digital evangelists speak at events, which is rarely reflected in the real world. Look at the UK's figures, for example, and you see that according to Strategy Analytics, digital is simply growing faster, at 9.5% in 2015, compared to 3% for tv. Interestingly, another channel which is often written off, cinema, is due to experience 4.8% growth in 2015, according to the figures. In fact, it's only print that will continue its much covered and long-running decline -- albeit at a slower rate of just -0.2% -- and radio is stagnating with just 0.3% growth.
In other words, overall budgets are increasing, and when they do, they're not going in to print and radio (outdoor is only growing by 1% as well) but instead the new money is going in to digital, cinema and television in that order. With digital growth outstripping both cinema and television, it has bubbled to the top of the pot to see an equilibrium reached between digital and traditional reached for the first time.
Another easy argument to make would be that this is all due to social. Brands want a new kind of conversation with consumers, blah, blah, blah. While it's partially true, let's not forget that these figures suggest half of all digital spending will be on good old-fashioned search. Mobile will get nearly a quarter of budgets, with social media and video each getting 18%.
So if you want to look at this way, it means that brands are set to spend about as much on search in the UK as they do in television this year. One of the most established digital channels, then, is at equilibrium with a traditional channel that has been dominating the ad scene for several decades.
So let's see these figures for what they are; a testimony to the rise of digital, funded by new money rather than an exit from television. We'll leave talk of that to gurus at exhibitions and conferences while we bear in mind that a proportion of that digital growth will be in video advertising on the main broadcaster's Web sites and catch-up services.