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Compared To 2020, Radio Ad Spend Was Up In Three Of 2021's Four Quarters.

While digital media may get all the attention with higher year-over-year advertiser investments during 2021 with double-digit percent growth vs. both 2020 and pre-COVID 2019, radio also has a good story to tell, according to an analysis by Standard Media Index (SMI) in collaboration with MediaPost.

For 2021, ad spend on radio was up 78%, 22% and 10% in Q2, Q3 and Q4 respectively, compared to 2020, with only Q1 off 24%. That's comparable to out-of-home advertising, which showed a similar pattern, although with a 44% decline in first quarter. Also notable is television's ad spend trend during those three quarters, compared to radio: +31%, +8% and -1%. Like all media except for digital, radio's ad spend numbers have yet to return to the levels of 2019, before the pandemic.

Overall, full calendar year ad spending in 2021 was up 18% from 2020 and 9% from 2019, reaching a “record high” according to SMI's analysis of the U.S. Ad Market Tracker, which indexes total U.S. ad spending from the pool of agency holding companies and independent agencies' actual media buys. At the same time, while overall ad spend has increased for ten consecutive months since February 2021, the rate of increase was off considerably for December, with total spend up just 1.4% year-over-year.

Also notable is the uneven nature of the spend trend when examining advertising categories. Ad spending from the top 10 categories, for example, was off 6.8% vs. 2020 and flat compared to 2019, while spend from all other categories gained 14.1% and 21.2% year-over-year vs. those respective periods. Specifically, spending from big ad categories such as automotive and consumer packaged goods showed double digit declines, while others like travel, wellness and retail showed spending up at that same rate.

Additional data from consultancy Winterberry Group shows marketers in 2021 spent $436.3 billion, up 21.6% vs. $358.8 billion in 2020, with an expected continued growth of 11.8% in 2022 to $487.8 billion. Among key growth drivers impacting 2022's spend are, according to Winterberry: a loss of identifiers in media driven by privacy concerns, forcing marketers to support a range of identity solutions; continued efforts to attract, retain and compensate industry talent; the move away from campaign-centric marketing to customer-centric and journey-based approaches; and increased investments and market consolidation, fueled by billions of dollars in venture capital, private equity and public market capital.

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