TV takes top spot as the largest UK advertising channel for automotive brands
Millennials with media

TV takes top spot as the largest UK advertising channel for automotive brands

TV remains the largest UK advertising channel for automotive brands, with a 6% rise in advertising spend in the 52 weeks to end of February 2019 in comparison to the previous year. However, cinema experienced the largest uplift, with a 14% increase in spend to £31m from £27m in the previous year.

Ford Motor Company remained the UK’s biggest automotive spender in traditional advertising, with large scale TV campaigns such as ‘Elephant in the Transit’, in which the brand partnered with charity Time to Change to raise awareness around mental health. Ford was followed by Renault, which significantly grew its share of spend on cinema to £4.8m (up from £270,089 in 2017). Vauxhall took third place, surging from ninth position in 2017, despite completely cutting spend on cinema, as its spend on TV advertising rose by 24%.

Jaguar Land Rover jumped to fourth position in 2018, from seventh in 2017. Whilst other automotive brands have unanimously opted to spend the largest share of traditional advertising on TV, Jaguar Land Rover has consistently favoured out of home (OOH) advertising. However, it strikingly altered its advertising strategy in 2018, with spend on OOH plunging from £6.6m to £1.6m. At the same time its spend on TV – led by campaigns such as ‘Born Adventurous’- increased by 49% (£9.8m v £6.5m), with other channels such as radio (£4.8m v £2.5m), cinema (£4.7m v £1.9m) and press (£2.5m v £1.7m) taking more spend.

Other significant movers included Volkswagen, which dropped from third place in 2017 to seventh in 2018. This was likely due to large cutbacks in cinema spend, which saw the German automaker only advertising on this channel for two months of the whole year, despite its Audi brand’s successful cinematic ‘Send in the Clowns’ advert in late 2017.

“Though traditional advertising spend in the automotive sector is down 7.2% from the previous year, our latest data shows that automotive brands are still making investments in advertising and placing more focus on the channels that they believe are most effective,“ says Barney Farmer, UK Commercial Director at Nielsen. “We are seeing an increased amount of spend in formats suited to large scale branding campaigns such as TV and Cinema, rather than spreading the cost evenly across channels.

“With Brexit on the horizon, automotive advertisers seem to be looking to reinforce their brand message rather than drive direct sales. Ford continues to be the top selling car brand in the UK, so it is unsurprising that its advertising expenditure is high and consistent within the UK market. Yet it’s evident that others such as home-grown British brand Jaguar Land Rover are looking to gain a greater share of the market by significantly revising up their share of spend, as well as its switch in strategy on which media channels to use”


  • The data covering individual automotive advertising spend covers the time period from 01 January 2018 to 31 December 2018 in comparison to the same period the previous year and covers Cinema, Outdoor, Press, Radio and TV advertising spend only.
  • The data covering the total advertising spend for media sector covers the period between March 2018 to February 2019 in comparison to the same period the previous year, and covers Digital, Cinema, Outdoor, Press, Radio and TV advertising spend only.