Ad agencies continued a familiar theme in Q2, upping their digital ad spending by double digits (11%) year-over-year, according to Standard Media Index (SMI), which derives its data from agencies’ billings systems. National TV ad spend was relatively flat (-0.8%), with a divergence between broadcast (+4%) and cable (-4%) spending, per the report.

SMI attributes that gap to the final games of the NCAA tournament, which were aired on CBS in April.

The following is a brief list of highlights for the quarter, in which overall spend was up by 3.8%.


After its first single-digit increase in Q1, digital rebounded to some extent with an 11% year-over-year increase in Q2.

Social media powered the growth with a 55% increase in ad spend, while search spending also grew by double-digits (12%). Internet radio, a medium with growing appeal, registered a 7% increase in ad spend.

While video has been growing quickly, the SMI report points to a disparity in spending. Specifically, premium video enjoyed large spending increases, with Hulu ad spend up by 30% and TV network digital increasing by 11%. (Not surprisingly, TV and radio’s online platforms attract a younger audience.) However, non-premium video ad spending declined in Q2, with YouTube spending decreasing by 15% for non-programmatic.


TV’s flat quarter masked some large differences in spending across genres.

In a fraught political climate, News programming continues to see gains, with ad revenues increasing by 16% across both broadcast and cable networks.

By comparison, Entertainment programming ad revenues was flat as broadcast entertainment prime time revenue declined (though it showed signs of recovery in June).

Meanwhile, ad spending on Sports programs was down by 8%. That was primarily due to a drop in spending on a short NBA Finals (9% less revenue for ABC); the U.S. Open (+14%) and the Stanley Cup Finals (+7%) both attracted higher revenues this year than last.

Other Traditional Media

Print media continue to be the hardest hit, per SMI’s data. Ad spending on magazines plummeted by 16% year-over-year, while ad spending in print plunged by 20%. Print’s struggles are unlikely to change, according to PwC’s latest advertising forecast, though magazines seem more immune than newspapers to ad spending declines.

In comparison, the decrease in ad spending on radio (-4%) and out-of-home (-1%) seem quite minor. Out-of-home – along with TV – has been the most resilient of the traditional media types, though it appears to be propped up by digital out-of-home.

More data can be found in SMI’s report, available here.

About the Data: Standard Media Index data is sourced directly from advertising agencies’ billing systems and then aggregated to show the combined picture of direct agency ad spend across all media types. It includes all media bookings from the participating agency groups and covers up to 80% of total agency spend across 15 global markets.


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