Three Reasons Co-Op Got Their Live Ad Right

Three Reasons Co-Op Got Their Live Ad Right


Doing an ad live is an impressive technical feat and wins a brand industry respect. But in an effectiveness sense the benefits are less clear. Most ads are built for repeat performances – you’ll encounter them again and again, which is one reason bad ones are so aggravating. A live ad is by its nature a one-off.

So it’s honestly lovely to be able to say that the Co-Op’s live Christmas ad was a big success, landing a very strong 4-Star score on the Test Your Ad platform, which puts it the year’s Top 10.

The ad stars The X-Factor’s Dermot O’Leary as he visits a Community Fridge in Feltham. The Community Fridge network was started by charity Hubbub in 2016 to help communities tackle food waste and build cooking skills. Co-Op are partnering with the initiative and funding 250 new Community Fridges, and the ad celebrates this partnership while showing a bit of communal merrymaking after a grim 18 months.

Co-Op’s ad – developed by Dentsu. Carat and The Story Lab – isn’t just unusual for going out live. It’s also proudly purpose-driven in a Christmas ad season which has mostly been about fun and indulgence. At a time when purpose-led ads are under fierce and much-needed scrutiny, it’s worth asking what this one gets right. We identified three big reasons.


From an execution point of view, doing the ad live has one big advantage. It prevents the directors from messing around with freeze-frames, rapid cuts, voiceovers and all the elements that appeal more to the narrow-beam attention of the left brain, as described in Orlando Wood’s Look Out. Instead the ad feels simple with a sense of place, a scene unfolding, and bags of interpersonal communication – all elements that tickle the fancy of the right-brain and are associated with greater effectiveness.


This vivid spontaneity combines very well with the purpose led message. Together they give the ad the familiar feel of a scene from a telethon, in which celebrities dropping in on charities are a common sight. Those genre cues make a viewer comfortable and the enthusiasm of Dermot makes the ad come over as a celebration, not a sermon.


Finally it’s the right brand to be doing this. Unlike a lot of supermarkets, the Co-Op is rooted in, well, co-operation and community action. A tie-in with a community charity fits the brand, so the initiative feels authentic and doesn’t distract from the Co-Op.

Which only leaves that initial problem – isn’t a live ad a one-off? The Co-Op are planning to run short ads in regular ad breaks around food and community, but also the ad is simple and direct enough that it could easily be cut down. (It would probably have been just as effective as a one-minute live piece.)

One of the great things about creativity is that a format which usually doesn’t work can suddenly spark to life when the right brand has the right idea. That’s the case here. Not every brand could or should try a live ad, but Co-Op have pulled it off in style.