NEW YORK—The U.S. market for television advertising hit its highest point ever in 2018, a year that featured the Winter Olympics and a midterm congressional election, according to the market research firm eMarketer. However, no one realized it was a peak at the time,” the firm noted in a recent analysis of the television and out-of-home (OOH) advertising markets.

Linear TV, according to eMarketer, had been “stagnating for several years,” but yet in early March 2020 the combination of the upcoming Summer Olympics and a big presidential campaign season was expected to produce a record $72 billion in TV ad spending last year.

Well, as we know, the political ad spending was robust in the hotly contested November election, but “nothing else about last year went as expected for TV, and spending on that media type declined by 12.5 percent year over year, rather than increasing by our pre-pandemic estimate of 2 percent,” eMarketer said. “While TV ad spending will rise again this year, by 6.7 percent, we don’t expect it to reach 2018 levels ever again.”

The OOH market experienced a similar drop in 2020, but it is expected to see more of a rebound. OOH ad spending peaked in 2019, but with the pandemic creating havoc last year this ad market fell a whopping 29.7 percent, according to eMarketer. The research firm attributed the decline to “fewer people [who] were driving past billboards, taking mass transit, or going to the types of venues and businesses that typically spend a lot on outdoor advertising.”

Nonetheless, eMarketer predicts that OOH advertising will rebound 14.5 percent this year, but OOH ad spending won’t reach $8 billion annually again for the foreseeable future. “Pre-pandemic, we had expected consistent, low single-digit annual increases for the OOH ad market,” the firm said.

TV and OOH were the only bright spots for a traditional media market in long-term decline, and “they’re looking considerably dimmer due to the pandemic,” eMarketer added. “Digital advertising, meanwhile, kept on rising last year, by 14.9 percent, and will accelerate to 25.5 percent growth this year.”

eMarketer added in its post, “Digital, and especially mobile and connected TV, will continue to claim an ever-greater share of total ad spending because of the pandemic.” For more information and analysis of the U.S. digital ad market, and pandemic-related trends in today’s ad market, visit the eMarketer/Intelligence site here.