Ad Ratings Round Up: May 2019

We add over 1000 new commercials each month to the System1 Ad Ratings database. Here are ten of the most notable new ads in May 2019, from a 5-Star success on down the scale. We pick the ads we think tell marketers something about effectiveness and how it works.


5-STAR (UK): Amazon Echo – “Sharing Is Caring”

The top-scoring ad this month is the UK version of this Amazon ad – the accents change, the story doesn’t. A bit of cross-generational bonding, courtesy of Amy Winehouse (and Alexa). The spot earns its stars by its gentle reversal of expectations – you think it’s going to be one kind of emotional ad (about the young caring for the old) and it turns into another (about not underestimating old people).

Sweet and straightforward, it’s more evidence of one of 2019’s more ironic trends: the big tech firms who are supposedly ‘killing’ TV advertising are actually making some of the best TV ads around.


4-STAR (US): MasterCard – “Priceless Surprises”

A tie-up with talent show The Voice, this story of singer Kris getting a “Priceless Surprise” ran over multiple 4-Star ads on TV. MasterCard’s “priceless” positioning has inspired multiple Fluent Device scenarios now, from the classic “For everything else, there’s MasterCard” to the “Priceless Surprises” run letting talented people meet the stars. Country star Blake Shelton, in this case.

Everything about it – from the celebrity letting the viewer in on the secret to the recipient’s joy and disbelief – is pure formula at this point. But it’s a formula that reliably touches hearts, and in MasterCard’s hands it’s a way of reminding everyone watching of their most powerful and long-running asset.

4-STAR (UK): Sudocrem – “Soothing Families”

Let’s face it, there’s not a lot of originality in baby care ads. They tend to score quite well, since people like the sight of a happy baby. But they aren’t a category that’s full of surprises.

So great credit to Sudocrem for doing something a bit different, and minimising the baby element in favour of pandas doing tai chi. The CGI execution for these surprisingly graceful beasts is the secret weapon here – they have charm to spare. And the ad ties back neatly to its product at the end – no self-indulgence here, just sheer, soothing 4-Star enjoyment.

4-STAR (US): Farmers Insurance – “Hall Of Claims”

Farmers’ “Hall Of Claims” campaign – which has been running all year – is a good example of a modular ad, where multiple 10-15 second spots can be mashed up together at greater length when needed.

Often it’s these longer versions which test better, as people have a little more time to get used to the Fluent Device scenario. In this case, outrageous claims, dramatized via special effects. There’s room for an insight line too – “We Know A Thing Or Two, Because We’ve Seen A Thing Or Two” – but mostly the selling takes a back seat to the gasp-inducing, slapstick destruction. And viewers love it – 4-Stars.

3-STAR (US): Maxwell House – “Invisible Labor Of Love”

A Mothers’ Day ad for venerable coffee brand Maxwell House, this looks like an emotional slam-dunk on paper – moms-to-be turn up for an ante-natal class which is given by their own mothers. At full-length (as in this YouTube video) it’s the kind of mockumentary ad which was all the rage a few years ago, and 3-Stars is fairly typical of the style: very worthy, not a lot of fun.

Compressed to 30 seconds for TV, the ad makes more impact – it gets the same Star Rating but a very strong Spike score, suggesting the brand saw some short term gains from the spot.

3-STAR (UK): Nescafe Azera – “Stay Curious”

Back over the Atlantic, curiosity turns a boring wait at the launderette into a party in this mildly surreal 3-Star ad for Nescafe’s premium instant coffee brand Azera. It’s cleverly structured and well-shot, capturing the shift from the everyday to the wild very well. Its Spike score is a little lower, though – suggesting there’s still a bit of disconnect between the idea and the brand.

3-STAR (US): Geico Motorcycle Insurance – “Drifter”

Another Fluent Device scenario – Geico have been having a lot of fun this year with these ads, which cut from guys rockin’ out on the open road to the rather more everyday activities they’re really up to. The ads walk a fine line between gently mocking the firm’s own customers, and celebrating their obsession, and a string of 3-Star results suggest they’ve been managing the tension well without ever quite making a classic.

2-STAR (UK): Tango – “The Text”

Britvic’s Tango fizzy drink brand enjoys legendary status in UK advertising. Its violent, surreal, 90s commercials were genuine pop cultural moments – adored in playgrounds, abhorred in Parliament. It returns to the screen in a changed world of health-conscious consumers, ubiquitous technology, and socially conscious brands.

In most ways, the brand has the right idea here – a new Fluent Device (the advice-dispensing Tanguru), modern scenarios but with a nod to the brand’s old risk-taking DNA. But at 2.6-Stars, something hasn’t quite worked. The ad looks a little washed out and feels rather timid – turning up the volume, and making either the Tanguru, the teens, or both a bit more in-your-face, might be the way to do it. It could lead to 1-Star disgust, but it could also give the ideas a boost. It’ll be fascinating to see how they go.

1-STAR (US): Clif Bar – “The Eagle”

And speaking of 1-Star disgust… “It’s not gross, it’s nature”, says the regular star of Clif Bar ads of their latest ‘bird feeding’ spot. “Nope, it’s gross,” reply System1 Ad Ratings respondents, who hand it a rock-bottom 1-Star score.

But for a small, privately owned brand fighting for share and attention in a very hot category (nutrition and energy bars) that needn’t be so bad. The short-term Spike score is very good for a small brand and especially for a 1-Star ad. For a big player this would be a disastrous indulgence, for Clif Bars it might well pay off, at least in the short term.

1-STAR (UK): Skoda – “I Gotta Be Me”

Skoda have said they wanted to do something “purposely different from the category norm” with this campaign – which is admirable given how drab most car ads are. “I Gotta Be Me” has been running for a month now. It’s an interesting idea – different bands in different genres covering the same song – but audiences aren’t finding much to love in it yet and it’s produced a string of 1-Star and 2-Star ads. The latest spot stars indie band The Sherlocks, and once again can’t clear the 1-Star bar.

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