Your Guide to Advertising Costs in the UK

Your Guide to Advertising Costs in the UK

You want advertising that brings you new customers. Doesn’t cost the earth. And grows your business.

From newspapers to social media. UK businesses spend more than £21 billion on advertising each year.

But how much does it cost to start?

And how do small businesses make it work for them?

New small businesses should spend 12 - 20% of their turnover on advertising. Yet many new businesses don't spend that much.

Which ones do? 

The ones that know what they're doing.

What Do Businesses Spend On Advertising UK

What You Will Learn

✔️ What digital and traditional ads are.
✔️ How much it costs to advertise on each platform.
✔️ How to choose the right channel for your ad campaign.

List Of Popular Advertising Channels

You must spend money to make money. 

But where? And how?

Some businesses have thousands to invest in marketing.
Others are just getting started and only have a few hundred pounds.

Here is a list of popular marketing channels. And my research on:

  • What they typically cost.
  • How to get started with them.
  • Your expected ROI, and how to calculate it.

I will continue to update this list.

Don't Waste Your Marketing Budget

Investing in any marketing without a website that compels people to buy your product could be costly. Get a website that drives you sales.

Billboards Advertising

Average cost of billboard advertising is £500-£600 every 2 weeks.

Advertising on Billboards Pros and Cons

You’ve seen them. You know them. It’s likely it was advertising brands you know. Maybe a movie, or McDonald's new breakfast menu.

Billboards reach large audiences. And a wide demographic.

The average cost of a billboard is £500-£600 for 2 weeks.

This includes the production and placement costs. But not the design.

Smaller posters often seen at bus stops will cost less. And Billboards at busy junctions where traffic moves slowly costs a lot more.

On average Billboards in the UK cost £3.85 per CPM.

CPM stands for cost per mile. Also called cost per thousand. It is the cost an advertiser pays for one thousand views.

Tracking return on investment for billboards can be tricky. But not impossible.

Many businesses are making it work for them. And it’s not just big brands.

Learn more about Billboard advertising costs in my in-depth guide.

Social Media Ads

Advertising on Social Media Ads Pros and Cons

Average cost of social media advertising is £150 - £260 per day.

Social media is the fastest growing channel in the world. 

Facebook is the largest social media channel. With 42 million users in the UK alone. Followed by YouTube, Instagram and TikTok.

The cost of social media ads is a hard number to break down. Because of the way it is sold.

You only pay when a user sees your ad. Or when they click it.

Most social media channels have a minimum spend budget. Facebook needs at least $1 a day and Linkedin $10 a day.

Often it’s not just the ads you have to consider. It’s the content as well.

By doing it all yourself you could spend as little as £100 a month. But many growing companies spend £1,000s.

Buffer says the industry average settles between £150 - £260 a day.

Learn more about Social Media Advertising Costs.

Newspaper Ads

Average cost of national newspaper advertising is at least £5,000.

Advertising on Newspapers Pros and Cons

When it comes to Newspapers the price of ads is wild.

Adverts in your local newspaper can cost as little as £50. Yet the Metro costs a quarter of a million pounds for a front page ad.

With newspapers, space and brand is what you pay for.

£13,050 can get you a full page ad in The Independent. One of the cheapest ads you can get from national newspapers.

But the Independent has the lowest readership of any national newspaper. Making it the most expensive per reader.

Newspapers also offer banner ads on their website. These are called MPUs.

Even these cost £1,000s. The Guardian offers a banner MPU for £46,000 per day.

Is it affordable for small businesses? Or should smaller companies look at local newspapers?

Read the full story on newspaper advertising costs.

Radio Adverts

Average cost of Radio Advertising is £500 a week.

Advertising on Radio Pros and Cons

89% of the UK listen to the radio each week. And there are over 600 radio stations across the country.

Many of them have specific people they target.

Heart Radio listeners are people aged 25-44.
Absolute Radio listeners are often 30+.

This means you know who is going to hear your ad.

Short ads with local radio stations start from £250 a month. And £3,000 for regional radio stations.

National radio station ads can cost upwards of £15,000.

Radio ads will also give you a £7.70 return on investment. That’s £7.70 for every pound you spend.

An appealing ROI for any business. But is it right for every business?

Learn more about How Much Radio Advertising Costs.

TV Advertising

Average cost of TV advertising is at least £20,000

Advertising on TV Pros and Cons

TV Ads are often taken up by big brands. Mainly because they need a big budget.

Not just to buy airtime. But also to film and produce an ad.

Yet TV remains the world’s most effective advertising format.


TV Ads on average give a £8.70 return on investment.

ThinkBox also claims small brands see the biggest lift in sales from TV ads.

The cost of TV advertising isn’t cheap. ITV can cost anywhere between £3,500 and £33,000 per 30-second ad. And daytime TV slots on Sky one cost around £250. 

TV isn’t one for businesses on a tight marketing budget.

But are small businesses missing an opportunity?

Learn more about TV Advertising Costs in the UK

How To Choose The Right Advertising Channel

With many channels to choose from, where do you start?

Cost is important. But it isn’t everything.

Some channels are cheap, but the returns can be poor.
Others cost more, yet can make you more money.

You want channels that give you the best results. To get the biggest return on investment.

But many businesses make costly mistakes.

Here are the 5 costly mistakes businesses make. And how to avoid them.

Mistake 1 stamp

Investing in only one channel

Many businesses invest in more than one channel. Often giving them better results.

Don’t limit yourself to one channel. High street stores are a good example of how poorly this can work out.

When COVID-19 hit people stayed home. Footfall dropped and so did sales.

Stores had to adapt. They had to use more channels like social media and paid ads.

Now they get benefits from both.

Mistake 2 stamp

Trying everything

This is the opposite of mistake #1.

A few businesses try everything. Social media, Billboards and SEO all at once. 

It’s chaos.

Usually this leads to nothing getting released. Or spreading your budget too thin.

For smaller businesses pick one or two channels to start with. 

Established business looking for high growth can benefit working with a digital marketing agency.

A good agency will help you with strategy. And save you money.

Mistake 3 stamp

Picking The Wrong Budget

Growing businesses invest at least 12% of their turnover into marketing.

If your gross revenue is £100,000 a year, that’s £12,000. At least.

Advertising is an investment. Which means your money should come back to you several times over.

Make sure you set a good budget of at least 12-20% of your turnover.

If you want high growth, you’ll need the budget to match it.

Small businesses on a very tight budget should invest in learning.

Read good blogs like Social Media Examiner. And apply what you learn by doing.

Mistake 4 stamp

Not focusing on content

Every advertising platform has one thing in common.

They all need content.

TV needs a huge cinematic ad.
Radio needs a high-quality audio ad.
Billboards need good graphics.

And social media needs all of them.

The biggest variable to the success of your campaign is your content.

You need to get good at creating content.

  • Write articles on how to solve problems in your market.
  • Record videos that answer challenging questions.
  • Create simple graphics like carousels.

Or hire someone to do it.

Content is your secret sauce. The channel is just the distribution.

Mistake 5 stamp

Wasting money

The quickest way to waste your hard earned money is crap marketing.

I’m talking about hiring a poor agency. Or freelancer.

Turns out there are quite a few of them. You might even be one of them.

Marketing isn’t a never-ending investment. You should see results within 3-4 months. 

If you’re not, it’s likely the person doing it isn’t as great as they made out.

If that's an agency you hired, fire them and get a new one.
If it’s you. It’s time for that hard chat with yourself.

Grow your business

75% of people make judgments on a companies credibility based on their website

Converting high quality customers starts with getting your website right.

Difference between digital and traditional advertising

The key difference between digital and traditional advertising is the way it is delivered.

Traditional advertising often includes:

  • Newspapers
  • Radio
  • TV
  • Billboards
  • Other print ads

Whereas digital advertising is:

  • Social media
  • Web design
  • SEO
  • Pay Per Click
  • Email marketing

Traditional and digital have the same purpose. Their goal is to reach new audiences and convert customers for your business.

Both still have a place in today’s market. And can work together to give businesses the best return on their investment.

But they also work slightly differently.

Zack's Insider Tip


Traditional advertising often costs more. 

Reaching 1,000 people using billboards, radio or TV costs a lot more than social media.

You can reach 1,000 people on Facebook for less than £1.50.
o reach the same amount of people using Billboards it would cost you £3.85.

Social media also gives you the flexibility to control your budget.

The cost of producing the content for traditional advertising is also significantly more. With TV ads costing at least £3,000 to produce.


With digital advertising you can target exactly who you want.

Traditional advertising doesn’t even come close.

Tools like Facebook Ads allow you to target by age, interests and behaviour.

Facebook Ads Targeting Audience
Facebook Ads Targeting Location
Facebook Ads Targeting Age

The best you can get out of traditional advertising is typical demographics. The most likely person to be watching that TV show. Or listen to that radio program.

Tracking Return

Finding out if your campaign worked or not with traditional advertising is hard.

Or at least harder than digital advertising.

All digital platforms do it for you.

Radio & TV advertising do report high return on investments. So it’s not impossible.

The return on investment for traditional ads is also growing. In the last three years ROI of TV Ads has more than doubled.

And using both digital and traditional ads together is shortening customers journeys. A good example of converting customers quicker.

How to measure ROI of advertising

What is ROAS Graphic

Measuring your return on investment is always going to have some challenges.

With digital it’s easier. Because you get a lot of sales data automatically.
Traditional advertising doesn’t offer that. Which often leads to some assumptions having to be used.

The best way to find out if your advertising is working is using ROAS.

ROAS stands for Return on Ad Spend. It’s a metric used often to measure the success of any advertising.

ROAS = Revenue directly from ads / Cost of ads.

For example, if you invested £3,000 into advertising over 3 months, and sold £10,000 of products and services. Your ROAS would be 500%.

£10,000 / £3,000 = 5

Wrapping Up

Now you know:

  • You need to invest at least 12% of your revenue to grow.
  • How much you need to invest into each channel.
  • Investing in only one channel is a bad idea.
  • Good marketing comes down to good content.
  • To work out your return use the ROAS metric.
  • The difference between traditional and digital is the way it’s delivered.
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