SMI: Media agency bookings head for a 30% fall in April

Chris Pash
By Chris Pash | 4 May 2020

The ad spend canary is bracing for the release of numbers for the first full month of isolation measures dragging on media agency bookings.

Australian media agency bookings fell 10.6% in March, with a steeper drop coming for April as the coronavirus infection fallout is measured for a whole month, according to numbers from SMI (Standard Media Index).

Late digital bookings in March were lower than expected, pushing the fall into double digits.

Across the month, digital was down 11.9%. radio 12.6% and television 8.2%.

If the SMI numbers were normalised for last year’s pre-election spike in political bookings the market total would be back 9.3%.

The fall for April, with a full month of pandemic restrictions on businesses, will be steeper and mark the 20th negative ad spend month in a row. 

Analysts expect media agency bookings to be down about 30% in April, although the final results won’t be known for another week or so.

SMI’s Forward Pacings data shows that, with a week of data still to be analysed, the value of ad spend in the Australian market in April was 57% lower than April last year, excluding digital.

In New Zealand media agency bookings grew 1.1% in March, giving that market its third month of growth in a row.

In Australia, Newspaper ad bookings grew 30.2% as the social restrictions began to take effect in late March. 

Jane Ractliffe, SMI AU/NZ managing director, says NZ was in a stronger position when the COVID pandemic hit than Australia, recording a 4% increase in financial year ad spend while in Australia the market fell 6.6%.

“This context is important as going forward we can see future confirmed bookings in NZ are already slightly above that evident in Australia, and that stands to reason as confidence in the NZ media market has been at a far higher level for the past nine months,’’ she says. 

SMI already has some good visibility into media markets for May, with 31% of the value of NZ’s May 2019 ad spend confirmed and 28% of Australia’s guaranteed even before the trading month had begun.

And many categories are already showing bullish levels of media investment in May.

In Australia, advertisers in the Household Supplies category have already guaranteed 91% of last year’s total investment for May.

In NZ ad spend from the Other Financial Services category is already 40% above May 2019.

Also this month, SMI has three new premium Rrail sub categories: Supermarkets/Convenience Stores, Alcohol Retailers and Shopping Malls/Operators.

Ractliffe says SMI is now working on new breakdowns for domestic bank ad spend, with six new premium sub categories to be released in May: Brand/Sponsorship, Consumer Banking, Business Banking, Institutional Banking, Home Loans and Savings/Deposits.

The latest numbers from SMI:


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