Think traditional media's dead already? Think again.
That's the message of the latest Expenditure Report, released by Warc and the Advertising Association earlier this week. The report, free topline data from which is available on Warc, showed that the UK ad industry continued its recovery in Q4 2010 - despite the broader economy's cold weather-induced contraction.
And the strongest growth of all came from some surprising sources, in the context of the digital revolution and the ever-present buzz around advertisers turning away from old techniques and pouring money into Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the rest.
Overall, UK adspend rose by 5.8% over the three-month period, bringing the full-year 2010 increase up to 6.9%. You might expect this growth to have been fuelled by online expenditure. But, strikingly, it was traditional media that did best of all: TV and direct mail were the star performers in Q4 2010, rising 12% and 12.7% respectively. Interestingly, 2010 represents TV's best annual performance (in terms of growth) since 1986.
It's not even all bad news for print media. For 2010 as a whole, national newspaper adspend was up 6%, though classifieds-dependent regional papers fell 6.4% and magazines were down 5.9%.
I heard a similar story at the annual ISBA conference last week, where representatives of companies like Ofcom and Accenture claimed that TV is still central to most people's media consumption. (You won't be surprised to hear that speakers from ITV and BSkyB agreed strongly with this point.) YouTube has become popular rather than dominant: Ofcom data shows that 82% of the typical Briton's total video consumption is scheduled TV content.
This isn't to argue that, in the main, more and more ad dollars (and pounds) are transitioning online. The latest Expenditure Report shows that internet adspend rose by a solid 9.2% in Q4, and is forecast to experience stronger growth than both DM and TV over the next couple of years. Also, unlike online, both of these traditional media experienced big adspend declines in 2009 as advertisers pared budgets in the recession, inflating 2010's growth rates somewhat.
But with the UK's economy starting to recover from the downturn - albeit shakily - and big events such as the 2012 London Olympics on the horizon, who's to say there won't be more surprises to come? At the very least, the death of traditional media seems to have been much exaggerated.