Social ad spend to overtake TV advertisements by 2020

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Last year, Mediaworks celebrated 10 years as an award-winning digital marketing agency. Over those ten years, we’ve witnessed some monumental moments, as the traditional vs digital battle rumbles on — for example, remember back in 2016 when mobile usage overtook desktop for the first time ever?

If predictions are anything to go by, it seems like digital is set to enter the record books yet again. According to eMarketer forecasts, the UK’s social media ad spend is expected to overtake the spend on TV advertising by 2020.

In 2018 alone, it’s estimated that a quarter of the UK’s total digital ad spend will go to social media platforms, worth around £3.3 billion. What’s more, this social advertising spend is anticipated to grow by 24% by the end of the year. By 2020, social ad spend will occupy 29.7% of the total UK ad spend, compared to the 17.8% share held by broadcast TV.

This growth is anticipated despite the recent negative coverage surrounding Facebook amidst the platform’s data harvesting scandal in association with analytics company Cambridge Analytica.

Why social ads are dominating over TV

As society becomes more digitally dependent, behaviours are shifting, paving the way for social media’s dominance. But why are more marketers spending on social?


With a TV advert, you can choose the area, channel and time your advert will be shown. However, this is the extent of the control you have — you have no way of knowing if the audience you think you are targeting has actually seen the advertisement. Many TV viewers will use the commercial break as an opportunity to make a cup of tea or visit the bathroom, meaning viewers may not actually see your ad at all.

What’s more, our viewing habits are changing. Catch-up services and recorded TV shows either omit the adverts all together, or give viewers the option to fast-forward through them all together. Likewise, more people are turning away from traditional TV in favour of online streaming services. In Q3 2011, Netflix had 22.93 million worldwide subscribers. By Q4 2017, this figure now stands at 117.58 million!

Ads across social platforms offer a greater level of control. Intelligent targeting features allow marketers to display their ads based on demographic, location, age, interest, behaviour, gender and connections, to name but a few. Plus, our growing social media usage means there’s greater opportunity to capture your audience’s attention.


As evidently shown by the growing Christmas TV commercial war — John Lewis spent £7 million on the Moz The Monster TV ad — TV time is expensive! Not only do you have the cost of producing the advertisement itself to deal with, but also paying for air time and additional marketing. All in all, the costs can quickly mount up!

Social ads, on the other hand, are relatively cheap in comparison. Of course, this cost will vary based on the terms you’re bidding on and your audience — however, it’s certainly a lot more manageable than the cost of TV advertising and the results achieved can be staggering.

This lower cost makes social media a lot more accessible as an advertising platform than TV, making it suitable for marketers with budgets of all sizes.


Analytics is crucial to understanding the level of impact your advertising can have—regardless of its platform. For TV advertising, you rely on third-party audience tracking companies to establish how well your ads have performed, and even then you face the problem of attribution. How do you know which sales were a result of exposure to your TV ad?

With social media advertising, analytical capabilities are vast, allowing you to track the performance of your ads down to the finest details—including engagement, impressions, reach and more. This visibility allows you to tweak campaigns while they’re in progress, rather than only learning about an ad’s ineffectiveness when it’s too late.

Clearly, the benefits of advertising across social platforms are huge — will you let this opportunity slip you by? Speak to Mediaworks today and create a targeted paid search strategy for social media that delivers the results you want. Contact us today by completing the form below.


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