In First Year-Over-Year Pandemic Comp, U.S. Ad Spending Surges 22% In March

In the first month to reflect a year-over-year comparison with the beginning of the COVID-19-related ad recession, national ad spending expanded 22% in March vs. the same month last year.

The data, which is derived from Standard Media Index's core database representing 90% of U.S. national ad spending, is a significant lagging indicator that the U.S. ad industry is back on a firm footing, and then some. March's 22% expansion compares with a 13% contraction in March 2020, which was the first month to reflect U.S. lockdowns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a rapid halt to ad spending in many ad categories.

It also compares with a 7% year-over-year increase in national ad spending in March 2019, indicating the U.S. ad industry is now expanding faster than its normalized base (see below).

While SMI has not yet disclosed March 2021 data for other media, it provided MediaPost with a glimpse of TV ad spending, which shows demand for national TV ad inventory has also rebounded, though this year's 13% gain does not yet offset March 2020's 17% decline (see bottom). Nonetheless, the finding is a significant signal for TV networks as they begin preparing for the 2021-22 upfront advertising season.

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While prior year data was not available at presstime, SMI's update indicates U.S. digital ad spending expanded 27% in March vs. the same month last year.

2 comments about "In First Year-Over-Year Pandemic Comp, U.S. Ad Spending Surges 22% In March".
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  1. James R. Brouwer from THINK Communications, LLC, April 16, 2021 at 10 a.m.

    Wouldn't -13 to +22 be a 35 point surge?

  2. John Grono from GAP Research, April 16, 2021 at 7:18 p.m.

    No James.

    You can't simply add the digits and ignore the +/- signs.

    Look at it this way.  The article says:
    1. "a 13% contraction in March 2020,"
    2. "national ad spending expanded 22% in March vs. the same month last year." (when referring to the current year).

    While we don't know the actual dollar amounts, let's use a base number of (say) ,000 'widgets' for March 2019.   So:
    - if March 2019 was 1000 widgets and March 2020 was down 13% that means that March 2020 was 870 widgets
    - if March 2021 was up 22% on March 2020 then March 2021 was 1061.4 widgets.
    - this means that March 2021 is up by 6.14% on March 2019

    This means that in round terms the market is up around 6% over the two years.   This hold whatever the actual March 2019 dollar figure was.

    The 'surge' you refer to is +25% on 2020 and +6% on 2019.

    I hope that clears things up.

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