Ad Ratings Round Up: July 2019

We test over 1000 new ads every month for our System1 Ad Ratings service. Here are 10 of the best and worst we saw in July.


COMMERCE BANK – “Things” (5-Stars)

This new campaign from Midwestern bank Commerce builds on their 2017 “Challenge Accepted” ads, which also mixed home video content with a reassuring message that the bank is there for you in the big moments of your life. Found-footage ads like this had a vogue a few years ago, and while purists are never going to love them, they’re a reliable way for a brand to give themselves a bit of folksy charm and feel a little more human than the competition.

It’s rare for any banking ad to hit 5-Stars, and Commerce should be applauded for top-scoring with this homespun, optimistic approach. Key to its success is that it gets out of the way of the footage rather than drowning it in messaging – for instance, by ending on another joyful mini-clip, rather than a logo.

MACMILLAN – “World’s Biggest Coffee Morning” (UK, 4-Star)

Cancer charity Macmillan are looking to get a bit of British Bake-Off style enthusiasm from their “Biggest Coffee Morning” event next month, launched with this very jolly ad, which comes within a whisker of getting 5-Stars and was the UK’s top scoring July commercial.

Charity ads which look to build their brands walk a fine line, building positive associations when their actual work often involves the most difficult of human situations. The word “cancer” is only spoken once in this 60-second spot, and it’s left to the endcap to remind viewers what Macmillan do. It’s hard to see how a charity brand could be more upbeat, and the positive vibe is clearly infectious.

LAYS – “Potato Heads”

DURACELL – “Bring Buzz Lightyear To Life”

Perhaps the biggest family film of the year is Pixar’s Toy Story 4, so it’s no surprise brands looked to capitalise. Successfully, in both these cases. Duracell’s ad is very straightforward – it’s the battery that keeps Buzz flying – and relies entirely on recognition of the film character. Lays is more imaginative, and funnier, using the film’s Potato Head couple to amusing effect, the latest in a string of ads they’ve made with the characters.

There’s very little to choose between them on Star-rating, but Lays scores higher on short-term Spike. Both commercials dodge the main risk of using guest stars and tie-ins – that you’ve made a better ad for the media property than for your own brand.


COMPARE THE MARKET – “No Place To Call Home”

Ten years into the “Compare The Meerkats” campaign and the public haven’t tired of Alexandr, Sergei and their furry family. Recently, though, the emphasis has been on using the Meerkats to sell the various associated deals that Comparethemarket runs, like Meerkat Movies and Meerkat Meals. Those ads still do well, but it’s good to see a proper brand-building ad with a strong storyline again. This 4-Star epic is unusually sentimental for a campaign which usually aims for broad comedy. Indeed it flirts with negative emotion – in particular sadness – but, of course, all is resolved happily by the end.

YORKSHIRE TEA – “Where Everything’s Done Proper”

Yorkshire Tea become the latest brand to get strong results with a celebrity appearance – in this case a 4-Star ad featuring actor Sean Bean as a boss proud (to say the least) of his Yorkshire heritage. Behind the comedy is a well-judged ad which could have gone wrong in different ways. Go in too heavy on the regional pride and it could be alienating; treat it as a complete joke and you’re denying a strong and distinctive part of the branding.

A strong sense of place is one of the characteristics of ads that appeal to the “right brain”, which deals with the understanding of context – as opposed to the more decontextualized and abstracted imagery preferred by the left brain. So it’s suggestive that ads with a strong regional identity often perform well in Ad Ratings. In October, the IPA will be publishing the results of work by System1’s Orlando Wood which explore the macro consequences of left- and right-brained creativity for ad effectiveness – uncovering whether ads like this are a fluke or a lesson for marketers.

COORS LIGHT – “The Official Beer Of Being Done Wearing A Bra” (US, 3-Star)

Coors Light’s ad turns on a micro moment of truth – the insight that when women get home at the end of a tough day, often the first thing they do is lose their uncomfortable bras. (And the other first thing they do, apparently, is crack open a beer). It’s a low-key bold strategy in a category which, for better or worse, has typically been coded male – will the moment resonate, and do Coors have cultural permission to use this insight?

A strong 3.7 Star score shows that commentators needn’t have worried. It’s the highest score this month in the US alcoholic drinks sector, outperforming the vast majority of beer ads this year. Yes, the insight works, and no, the fact it’s coming from a beer brand doesn’t matter. Credit is also due to the music choice, Toots And The Maytals’ “Pressure Drop” making the woman’s relief joyfully apparent.

JEEP – “Summer Of Jeep” (US, 3-Star)

Music also plays a big part in Jeep’s new campaign starring The Avengers’ Jeremy Renner. Yes, Hawkeye has a rock star side hustle, and his music turns out to be the kind of drivetime heartland rawk that’s as well-targeted for Jeep as an explosive arrow. Whether it’s the music, the star power, the season, or a little of everything, Jeep’s brace of 3-Star ads were the highest scoring car brand ads in July.

COCA-COLA – “Magical Taste Of Coke” (UK, 1-Star)

AKA The One With The Tongue. Credit to W+K for pushing it through and Coke for taking a risk – it’s a well-made, utterly confident piece of advertising which just can’t quite overcome the sad fact that viewers don’t really want to see people partying with a giant tongue. It lands at 1-Star thanks to unusually strong Disgust and Contempt responses. There is, alas, an accounting for taste.

What Coke and the ad’s makers can take comfort in is the spot’s sky-high Spike score – in a short-term sense, Coke’s gamble should pay off. The ad is unforgettably branded and gets people talking – jobs it does better than many much safer ads. For more on the Coke ad (and other weirdness), listen to this episode of our podcast.

ZELLE – “Gift Better” (US, 1-Star)

Finally, a campaign from digital payment service Zelle which has become the latest online-first campaign whose quirkiness doesn’t translate well on TV. A series of awkward characters explain gifting mishaps which could have been avoided with a simple cash transfer.

On social media, the brand might have a case that it needs thumb-stopping visual oddness rather than something more engaging – but on a broader-reach format that doesn’t work so well.

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