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2021 UK Exports of Advertising and Marketing Services Reach £15bn

4 min read Partner content

Industry records highest year-on-year growth at 32.5%. Business and Trade Secretary, Kemi Badenoch, commends industry as driver of economic growth

London, April 13, 2023: The Advertising Association reports the UK exported £15bn in advertising and market research services in 2021, according to latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) data. The figures highlight a strong rebound from 2020 and represent a 32.5% increase in year-on-year growth – the highest seen since Credos, the advertising industry’s think tank, began tracking the industry’s export figures in 2018. These new figures bring export value back in line with the industry’s pre-COVID trajectory, making the UK second only to the USA for exports worldwide.

The surge in advertising exports have also been met with a sharp increase in UK imports, valued at just under £12bn – a 70% rise from 2020’s figure of £7bn. The UK retained an overall trade surplus of advertising and marketing services in 2021, contributing a net £3bn to balance of payments. 

The US remains the largest recipient of UK exports, receiving £3.9bn worth of advertising and market research services, – a value that has more than tripled since 2020. This is followed by Germany (£1.36 billion) and then Ireland in third place (£894 million). The top 10 recipients of UK advertising are largely EU countries with a new entry from Australia at 7th receiving exports worth £538m.

Kemi Badenoch, Secretary of State for the Department of Business and Trade, said: "The advertising industry is one of the UK’s strongest exports and these record figures provide a great boost as we aim to sell £1 trillion of goods and services a year to the world by the end of the decade. I look forward to working closely with the industry to help businesses expand into new markets and help drive further economic growth in the years ahead."

Stephen Woodford, CEO, Advertising Association, said: “It is terrific to see such strong growth figures from the UK’s world-leading advertising and marketing services, showing the innovative way our industry has responded to the challenges posed by the pandemic. We prepare now to support the next decade of UK advertising growth, through our productive partnership between the industry, through the UK Advertising Exports Group, and the Department for Business and Trade. As the UK Government sets out its ambitions to become a science and technological superpower, we should not forget the UK is already a creative superpower and our recent success at SXSW demonstrates how our industry can continue to play a key part in UK export growth.”

The release of the advertising export figures comes at a time when the UK has made history by becoming the first European nation to join the CPTPP, a trade bloc consisting of 11 Pacific countries. This move is significant as the bloc is home to over 500 million people and has a GDP of £11 trillion demonstrating the UK's commitment to expanding their market by partnering with these nations. The UK Advertising Exports Group (UKAEG) is eager to seize this potential for growth and expansion as it makes its plans for the years ahead.

The analysis of the latest figures by Credos also sets out several global headwinds for consideration. Inflation is taking a more noticeable effect as the cost-of-living crisis continues. Credos’ analysis showed the difference in export value vs real terms in 2021 is approximately 12%, compared to 2016.

The UK Advertising Exports Group (UKAEG) and Credos have commissioned a new research project with Enders to deep dive into the sector’s remarkable growth and help inform the work the industry undertakes to ensure the UK remains a global hub for advertising and marketing services. The report will be launched this November 2023 as part of International Trade Week with Department for Business and Trade (DBT).

The UK Advertising Exports Group (UKAEG) has just completed, in partnership with DBT, its biggest trade mission to date at SXSW. UK House at SXSW attracted over 10,000 delegates attending 30 official talks, featuring 93 speakers, a special collaboration with the American Advertising Federation, and 14 demos/activations, meeting with UKAEG companies including BrandFuel, Qumin and VCCP.  

This trade mission to SXSW was backed with the launch of a new GREAT campaign to help promote the UK as the global hub of advertising and innovation to the world’s buyers. It is a first for UK advertising, targeting North America, featuring work of several UKAEG members to help showcase the UK’s global leadership in embracing technology to help brands connect with audiences. 

For further analysis of the export figures, please visit the Credos hub on our website here.

If you wish to find out more about UKAEG please contact Aisling Conlon, or visit the UKAEG website here.


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