Tesco is UK’s biggest traditional advertising spender in grocery retail

Tesco remains the UK’s biggest spender in traditional advertising in the grocery retail sector, reveals new data released from Nielsen AdIntel. Tesco, which held the top spot for grocery retail in 2018, celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2019, increasing its spend from £74.8m in 2018 to over £80.8m in 2019. 

Both Asda (down -4.9% to £65.3m) and Lidl (down -11.0% to £54m) maintained their positions in second and third place respectively, despite both decreasing spend. However, the most significant mover in grocery retail was Sainsbury’s, which increased spend across these channels by 82.6%, up from £28.4m in 2018 to £51.9m in 2019. This was led by its 150th anniversary campaign “Proudly doing our bit”, which was then reinforced in its ‘Nicholas the Sweep’ Christmas campaign that alluded to Sainsbury’s founding in 1869.

In contrast, Morrisons dropped from fourth to seventh after decreasing its spend by more than -21.2%, from £45.9m in 2018 to £36.1m in 2019. The Co-operative and Waitrose also chose to cut back spend. However, traditional advertising was given more of a priority in the marketing plans for Aldi (up 15.3% to £52.7m), Marks & Spencer (up 1.0% to £37m) and Iceland (up 9.0% to £25.6m), who all upped their spend from the previous year.

In terms of advertising spenders overall, Sky was the UK’s biggest spender in traditional advertising in 2019 overall, increasing its spend by 44.1%, up from £124m in 2018 to £178.8m in 2019. McDonald’s, which came third in 2018, increased advertising spend significantly by 23.7%, taking the overall second spot ahead of Procter & Gamble, which had the biggest decline of the overall top spenders, decreasing spend by -26.8%.

Table: Top 10 UK grocery retail advertisers in 2019 versus spend in 2018

Grand Total£443,208,879£431,807,962
Marks & Spencer£36,998,968£36,649,850

Barney Farmer, UK commercial director at Nielsen, said: “Last year, Tesco celebrated its 100th anniversary, whilst Sainsbury’s also marked its 150th birthday in 2019. These two milestone events have likely been the main contributors for the increased spend from these two retailers across trusted media channels. However, there was less consistency across the supermarket chains in terms of traditional advertising spend overall. As Aldi, Marks & Spencer and Iceland invested more, while Asda, Lidl, Morrisons, The Co-operative and Waitrose all shifted budgets away. Many grocery retailers are choosing to experiment in other channels, while some have reinvested back into traditional media as trusted way to their way to reach their consumers. It will be interesting to see which way this shifts throughout 2020.”