Ad Ratings Round Up: June 2019

Every month we test more than 1,000 new TV ads for our Ad Ratings service, building up the most complete picture of effectiveness in the industry. Here are ten of the most interesting to hit screens in June.


5-STAR (UK): Hovis – “Boy On Bike (Remaster)”

Our round-up generally focuses on brand new ads. This month is a bit of an exception – our spotlight ad, from bread brand Hovis, is 46 years old. Re-released with remastered film and a new soundtrack, the classic story of a young lad delivering bread turns out still to resonate with viewers – it’s a strong 5-Star and its short-term Spike Rating is through the roof too. In fact, the spot tests better than 99% of 2019’s advertising.

What makes it so good, though? It contains a lot of executional features that we’re finding are characteristic of more effective advertising. A good story told in long, steady shots. A strong emotional arc. A sense of time and place – brought out doubly by the brass band music. It’s not just nostalgia that makes Ridley Scott’s 1973 ad a masterpiece, and its modern scores prove that.

5-STAR (US) Kemps – “Simply Crafted”

5-STAR (UK) Lotus Biscoff – “Craving Cups”

Two ads in high-scoring FMCG categories which still manage to excel by using animation to build charm and feeling. Dairy brand Kemps stresses its artisanal origins in its spot, but it’s the delightful animated ingredients which get the point across (it works just as well without sound).

The conceit in Lotus Biscoff’s European ad – coffee cups want a Biscoff – is borrowed from a 3-Star ad the brand ran in 2017 in the US. The execution here is several strides ahead of that – again it’s the animated objects which create a real sense of magic (and the music, which borrows subtly from the Harry Potter film soundtracks.)

Both these spots conjure up a Sorceror’s Apprentice style feeling of escapist mischief. It’s that playfulness that helps them transcend the sensory cues their categories typically work with.

4-STAR (UK) Amazon Fire TV Stick – “Lassie”

Another effective trait in adverts is use of cultural references. Done well, they let ads tap a reservoir of established feeling beyond their own brands and link those brands to a wider pop-culture world. Now, you might rightly say it’s been a while since Lassie the Dog and her remarkable rescues formed part of pop culture, but happy memories clearly linger in this 4-Star ad – and the storytelling makes the joke clear even if you’ve never seen the wonder dog in action.

Amazon are one of the Ad Ratings standouts of 2019 – they have evolved into a brand which regularly makes warm, funny, and faintly self-mocking ads which make their audience happy while slyly demonstrating the products too.

4-STAR (US) Veloz – “Arnold”

Starting this month we’ve begun including selected non-TV ads on the Ad Ratings site, in a category of “Topical Ads” which are freely available to ALL subscribers. Topical Ads are what their name suggests – ads which fall outside the standard Ad Ratings remit but are too interesting, newsworthy, or just plain good to not test.

Here’s one of them – electric vehicle manufacturer Veloz’ viral stunt where Arnie Schwarzenegger goes undercover as a used car salesman. It got plenty of PR, but more importantly, it was an emotional hit too – a strong 4-Star ad.

With the EV market growing strongly, and major brands lining up to try and win share from current leader Tesla, it’s never been more important for smaller players to make a mark using great communication. Veloz have succeeded – this ad is currently the best we’ve ever tested for an electric vehicle.

4-STAR (UK) / 3-STAR (US) Heinz – “Ed Sheeran”

A lot of this month’s ads use famous faces. But how do you walk the tightrope between using the big names and avoiding them seeming a bit cheesy? Heinz’ foray into meta-advertising solves the problem with a unique kind of authenticity – the ad is ‘based on a Direct Message’ that pop everybloke Sheeran sent to the ketchup giant. The conceit proved very popular in the singer’s home country, and still performed well in the US.

Would it have done just as well if they’d just… made an ad starring Ed Sheeran rather than making an ad about Ed Sheeran’s idea for an ad? We can never know. Though since the execution of this one is so good – the dog’s expression is priceless – our guess is it would have come out fine.

3-STAR (US): Apple Airpods – “Flexible”

Apple’s advertising style is a strange beast. It’s quirky and highly recognisable – more like short indie films than conventional ads – and it wins a ton of awards. (The company picked up three Gold Lions in Film at Cannes this year.) But try as we might we’ve found very little evidence that ordinary people like it. (All three of those Lions-winning ads scored 1-Star).

Every so often, though, they do something which does hit the spot with audiences – at least to some extent. Last year’s dynamic “Welcome Home” scored well, and this 3-Star Airpods ad is its close cousin, a celebration of movement and special effects to build the idea of flexibility.

2-STAR (UK): Walkers Crisps – “Spice Girls Surprise”

More celebrities. Walkers’ tie-in with the Spice Girls got a big crop of UK headlines in June and some very high-value media placements for the campaign’s launch. The ad features the country’s biggest Spice Girls fan refusing to share his precious crisps with his idols – the kind of broad-brush humour that Walkers’ ads tend to thrive on.

So a high 2-Star score is a bit disappointing – might it be (gasp!) that the public just don’t care much about Sporty, Baby, et al. any more? One area the brand should be happy with is Spike – it got very strong scores for short-term activation. But hopefully there are better ads to come for the long-term brand-building Walkers want.

1-STAR (US): Hennessy – “Repeat The Unrepeatable”

Hennessy made ad industry headlines this year when they lured Ridley Scott back to the medium to make a 4-minute fantasy opus, “The Seven Worlds”, about the seven different tasting notes to be found in their cognac. The 1-Star results prove that even the greatest talents have their off-days – or maybe the brief just wasn’t up to snuff.

Four months later, they’re back on TV with this lavish new 60-second ad for Hennessy VSOP Privilege. Again, top-tier talent is working with the blue-chip brand – revered agency Droga5 and world-class SFX studio The Mill. But again, it’s a 1-Star spot. The lugubrious pace, the reverential voiceover, and the self-absorbed obsession with process combine to make an ad viewers find unbearably pompous.

1-STAR (US): F-Bomb – “Fat Is Smart Fuel”

Finally, Arizona food brand F-Bomb makes products for “designer diets” – Paleo, Keto and the like. Their ad – not on YouTube – is a barrage of in-your-face product shots which gets one of the month’s lowest scores for long-term brand-building. But for short-term impact (Spike) it performs far more respectably, landing well above average.

Appropriately for a line of high-energy fat products, this kind of ad is geared for an in-the-moment boost not for lasting impact. If the category catches on, though – think of how high-protein and vegan options have become mainstream in recent years – brands operating in it will need to find more creative and emotional ways of getting that energy fix.

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