Core, Ireland’s largest marketing communications company, is forecasting that total media spend in Ireland will grow by 8.9% in 2021 to €983.6 million.

As with previous years, online will deliver the growth in the market, while print media will see a fourth consecutive year of decline, with overall spend falling 5.3% to €74.7 million despite the impact of COVID-19. Meanwhile, the level of total media spend in Northern Ireland is expected to increase by 8.3% to £180.2 million (€202.5m). This follows an overall decline in ad spend of 10.7% to £166.3 million (€186.9m) in 2020 which was bigger that the UK market as a whole, which showed remarkable resilience with a fall of just 7%.

The advertising market was hit hard in 2020 and estimated overall spends in the Republic of Ireland fell by 14.2% to €903.1 million. However, this is a far better outcome than was expected earlier in the pandemic when marketing activity was decimated; in Q2 and Q3 last year, spends declined by circa 48% and 29% respectively compared with the same quarters in the previous year.

The figures are contained in Core’s annual ‘Outlook’ report which forecasts spend for 2021 across a variety of media, including Video, Audio, Print, Online, Sponsorship and Out-of-Home. The report also outlines some of the key developments and important issues that will impact the sector this year.

Key forecasts from Core Outlook 2021 include:
Key forecasts from Core Outlook 2021 include:

Television – Despite strong viewing levels in 2020, TV advertising fell by 9.8% to €190.3 million. In 2021, the TV market will see a recovery increasing by 6.6% to €202.9 million as brands that were forced to curtail advertising in 2020 return to the medium.

Online Video – The online video market continues to perform strongly in the Republic of Ireland, increasing by 6% to €147.8 million in 2020. Facebook, including Instagram, continues to grow, accounting for 76% of the online video market (for advertising). This year, the market will continue to grow and is predicted to increase by 13.1% to €167.2 million.

Print – The print industry was significantly impacted by Covid-19 in 2020 with advertising revenues declining across numerous revenue sources including classified advertising, SMEs and local advertisers. Overall print spend fell by 25.3% to €78.9 million. Core predicts that the Republic of Ireland print market will contract by 5.3% to €74.7 million but digital revenue for national titles is expected to increase by 8% this year to €22.8m.

Cinema – 2020 was a tough year for the cinema industry with overall spend falling by more than 80% to €1.4 million in the Republic of Ireland. While there is expected to be little improvement for the first half of 2021, as the country exits lockdown, brands and audiences will return with spend predicted to almost double to €2.6 million. It is worth bearing in mind that this will only represent one third of the level of spend in 2019. In Northern Ireland, advertising investment fell by circa 70% to £0.45 million (€0.51m) in 2020. Like the South, Core expects cinema spends to double this year to £0.91 million (€1.02m).

Online – In 2020, online media spend experienced its first year-on-year decline falling by approximately 9.4% to €477.6 million. Despite their global growth, Google and Facebook’s combined advertising revenue in the Republic of Ireland contracted by 5.5% to €403.1 million. This year, the overall online market will increase by 12.9% to €539.4 million with Google and Facebook growing by 14% and 12% respectively. A continued surge in video investment will benefit both businesses, even though competition from TikTok will increase substantially this year.

Radio – In 2021, radio advertising will grow slightly to €104.2 million, an increase of 1.8%. Digital audio (podcasts and online streaming) investment has seen a surge since March 2020 as consumption increased and this will continue to grow, reaching approximately €7.3 million in 2021. Bauer Media Group’s recent acquisition of Communicorp, for circa €100 million, is predicted to be the standout event in the industry this year, and it is likely that Bauer’s strategy will be to boost the digital presence of its new assets to broaden listenership and drive new revenue.

Out-Of-Home – Advertising investment across all OOH formats is expected to increase by 13.9% to €59.8 million in 2021. However, this will be one third less than the investment in the medium in 2019. The OOH market in Northern Ireland recorded revenue of £11.4 million (€12.8m) in 2020, a decline of 31.9% on 2019. However, it was a better performance than the UK, which fell by 44%. The advertising investment in Northern Ireland will increase by 14.1% to £13.0 million (€14.6m)

Sponsorship – Investment in the sponsorship market in the Republic of Ireland, specifically fees paid, decreased by an estimated 14.8% to €160.6m in 2020, bucking the trend of sustained growth over recent years. In 2021, despite a feast of sport to look forward to, investment will decrease by a further 5% to €152.5m.

In a bid to ensure that Ireland has a sustainable media market for the future, Core is also calling for Government intervention to support indigenous outlets, who has seen revenue fall by circa €162m since 2000.

The organisation says that it is critically important for Ireland to have a thriving, ambitious, inquisitive, energetic news media and the Irish government must realise the pivotal role that all our indigenous media play in our culture, values and national identity.

Alan Cox, CEO of Core, says: “The prognosis for the future is concerning. Without government intervention, the number of indigenous outlets, and the range of what they cover will continue to shrink. We should not allow commercial market forces to shape the media landscape in Ireland, because this will eventually lead to market failure, with the breadth and depth of public-interest content being compromised.”

“Media play a pivotal role in building a sense of community and highlighting the wonderful and increasingly diverse aspects of life in Ireland. These goals can only be achieved in full through a pluralistic media market which includes well-resourced indigenous media that are focused on servicing the needs of the Irish public.”

This year, Core will be issuing a series of reports that will address the key issues facing the marketing industry, with Outlook being the first in the series.

Core Research is part of Core. Core employs a team of 330 people and consists of eight practices - Creative, Data, Investment, Learning, Media (comprising of Mediaworks, Spark Foundry, Starcom and Zenith), Research, Sponsorship and Strategy. Core has been voted one of the top workplaces in Ireland by the Great Place to Work Institute for the tenth year running.