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Is old-school advertising dead? And has social media taken its place in the UK?

Authored by Jeremy King, CEO & Founder at Attest

Introduction and hypothesis

It’s the perennial marketing question: where should brands direct their advertising spend?

If there was a simple answer to this question, there’d be no need for platforms like Attest. There’d be no need to inform intuition, no doubt to dissolve and a bunch of marketers and data scientists would be out of work.

Happily (for me and the Attest team at least), there’s no straightforward answer. Direction of advertising spend is rather predictably unpredictable.

So how can we begin to draw any hypotheses based on advertising spend?

Well that’s actually quite easy. Here goes…

Hypothesis: old-school advertising is dead; social media is the place to be.

And there we are, problem solved.

What’s that? Oh you want us to investigate this hypothesis?

Hmm, go on then…


Just as the sun rises every day in the east, we ran some consumer research about this.

We surveyed 250 UK adults aged 18 to 64 about their propensity to respond to different types of advertising and about specific social media platforms.

In our survey, the full results from which you can access and play around with on the Attest dashboard, we asked two questions:

  • How often do you respond to adverts across the following mediums? By 'respond', we mean seeking out more information, making a purchase or otherwise engaging with the brand/product.

  • TV advert

  • Radio advert

  • Newspaper or magazine advert

  • Promotion by an influencer

  • Social media advert

  • Advert in search engine results

  • Billboard or flyer

  • Promotional email

  • How often do you respond to adverts on the following social media platforms?

  • Facebook

  • Twitter

  • Instagram

  • TikTok

  • Snapchat

  • YouTube


TL;DR: here are the key stats from our research:

  • Social media ads are almost as effective as TV (37% respond well to ads on both mediums although TV has the slight lead on 'very often').

  • The most effective social platform is YouTube, with 17% responding to ads 'very often'.

  • But if we look at 'often' and 'very often' combined, YouTube is on a par with Facebook (31%), followed by Insta 29% and TikTok 24%.

  • Promotion by an influencer and search engine ads are also very effective, with 22% and 29% respectively responding to ads sometimes.

Top of the pile for the advertising medium most people say they respond to was TV ads, with 16% saying they respond to this ‘very often’. In fact, TV advertising came up trumps across all of the positive responses: 69% of participants said they respond ‘very often’, ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’ to TV ads.

The other top results for positive responses were social media ads (66%) and promotional emails (64%).

TV’s continued advertising dominance solidifies its place as a staple of marketing spend, and only clarifies the sense that it’s the holy grail of advertising success for marketers. It’d be very interesting to test whether TV’s dominance will continue or decline considering the rise of streaming and other media.

Email is important but there’s a caveat...

There were some notable nuances in this part of the research though. For example, while promotional emails took the bronze medal for overall positive responses, its ‘very often’ responses were relatively low – at just 8% responding that regularly. Meanwhile TV ads and social media ads garnered 16% and 14.4% ‘very often’ responses.

The fact that email is right there in the top 3 is noteworthy, but rubbing shoulders with TV and social doesn’t necessarily put it in the same league of engagement and advertising ROI.