September 24, 2022

  • Many British media companies pulled advertising after the Queen’s death and during her funeral.
  • Analysts estimate that ad blackouts could cost media companies more than $100 million in lost revenue.
  • Experts also said media companies could benefit from additional print sales and pent-up demand from advertisers.

British media pulled advertisements from TV, radio and billboards as millions of viewers followed every aspect of the Queen’s death, leading up to the monarch’s funeral on Monday.

While individual media owners have introduced different lengths of ad-free periods, independent media analyst Ian Whittaker said blackouts and reduced levels of advertising during the national mourning period could represent a deficit of around £107m ($122m) in a worst-case scenario.

Douglas McCabe, chief executive and director of publishing and technology at Enders Analysis, estimated that lost advertising could amount to around £15m ($17m) a day for TV companies, £2m ($2.3m) for radio, 2 million pounds for billboard owners and one million pounds ($1.1 million) for newspapers.

Over the entire period of mourning, this could mean a shortfall of 60.5 million pounds ($69 million) for the British TV industry alone, media analyst Alex DeGroote said.

Members of the public watch the State Funeral Service of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II on a big screen in Hyde Park, London, United Kingdom, on September 19, 2022.

Members of the public watch the State Funeral Service of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II on a big screen in Hyde Park, London, United Kingdom, on September 19, 2022.

Tolga Ovali/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Not all that money will disappear completely, McCabe said. There is likely to be pent-up demand from brands looking to return to advertising at the appropriate time. Many publishers and out-of-home media owners will receive ads from companies that want to honor the Queen, McCabe added.

However, this could make ads more expensive, Whittaker said. “The obvious unknown factor is whether ads that are pulled will later come back into the system and crowd out other ads, which then drives up prices,” he said.

Meanwhile, additional sales from consumers who bought a limited edition commemorative print may have helped offset some of the lost advertising revenue, McCabe said, although the newspaper industry should have printed more papers for the morning after the announcement of the Queen’s death.

“They could have sold three or four times as much,” McCabe said. “The demand for newspapers was higher on Friday [September 9] than has been the case for many decades, and traders sell out early in the morning.”

How advertising went silent in the British media to mark the Queen’s death

Overnight viewing figures from UK TV viewing body Barb suggested that BBC One’s audience reached just under 20 million viewers, while ITV peaked at 5.3 million. Those figures don’t include people who watched the service on streaming apps or at screenings in locations like parks and pubs.

ITV, the UK’s biggest commercial broadcaster, pulled adverts from its main channel on September 8 as it switched to full-time coverage of the monarch’s deteriorating condition. Channel ITV 1 remained without ads for another 72 hours. The broadcaster also did not air any commercials on any channel for the entire day of the Queen’s state funeral.

An ITV spokesman said it had informed advertisers of the changes and offered them an alternative broadcast time.

Channel 4 removed all adverts from the two main TV channels following the announcement of the Queen’s death until the morning of Saturday 10 September. A 24-hour advertising blackout was also introduced on the day the Queen was laid to rest.

While media companies returned to running ads during the national mourning period, they removed potentially sensitive ad content — such as ads for state insurance, funerals and life insurance.

“We understand the balance of protecting and supporting both viewers and advertisers, so it’s essential that we use all the resources we have to prioritize [sic] removal of all advertisements and sponsorships that could objectively cause damage and offense [sic]Sky Media CEO Brett Aumuller wrote in an email to media agencies on September 10, seen by Insider.

Lindsey Clay, chief executive of British TV marketing body Thinkbox, said broadcasters wanted to reflect the national mood but were now focused on helping TV advertisers “get back to normal”.

The Queen tribute ad Piccadilly Lights

Piccadilly Lights in Piccadilly Circus displays a tribute to Queen Elizabeth II.

Vuk Valčić/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Many British newspapers have removed advertising from their websites and the front half of their print editions for various periods during the mourning period, and out-of-home media owners have replaced digital billboards at transport hubs and major landmarks. London’s Piccadilly Lights, for example, displayed an official portrait of the Queen provided by Buckingham Palace during the period of mourning.

British commercial radio stations, which have moved to darker playlists, have also removed commercials for varying lengths of time. US tech giants including Snap and Twitter also suspended some ads in the UK for a short time following the news.

But even as advertising returns, British media companies remain in a difficult position due to rising inflation and a bleak economic outlook. Losing the queen could deepen some of those challenges.

“To me, the long-term damage is more of a concern,” DeGroote said. “Without the Queen, I think the UK is losing some of its tourism appeal and soft power, which will affect advertising. And the economic outlook is bleak with the energy crisis.”

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