Ad Ratings Roundup: April’s Hits And Misses

We test over a thousand ads every month for our System1 Ad Ratings service. Here are ten of April’s most interesting.


5-STAR: CADBURYS – “Cupboard Raider”

The UK’s top-scoring ad this month comes from Cadburys for their Fingers brand, a gently-paced and well-constructed story of friendship (and chocolate smuggling). For all that it speaks to current anxiety over treats in the playground, there’s something timeless about the style of this beautifully crafted (and highly right-brained) ad, which resists the temptation to overdo things with music cues or voiceover. Its reward is a 5-Star Ad Ratings score.


From the US, this 5-Star ad shares a scenario with the Cadburys’ work – a kid’s secret plan to make a connection with their friend. No naughty undertones here – the narrative is a wholesome one of inclusion, with subtle product placement for Hormel’s cheese along the way. None too subtle, but heartwarming and an easy 5-Stars.

4-STAR: STRONGBOW – “Rob & Chris”

With the UK alcoholic drinks market in a state of flux, a lot of mass market brands have been launching big new campaigns. Press interest has focused on the lager battle between Carling, Carlsberg and Foster’s, but cider giant Strongbow has them all beaten with this 60-second celebration of Britain’s pub music heroes. A nostalgic song choice and a feeling of bonhomie turns this ad into a strong 4-Star effort.

4-STAR: FACEBOOK PORTAL – “Mother’s Day”

Facebook’s corporate ads have had a rocky reception from customers, who simply don’t trust the company enough to feel reassured or happy by its assurances on privacy and other issues. But in advertising terms, its Portal smart display device had a strong rollout, with a string of 4-Star ads led by this collection of celebrity Moms for Mother’s Day. A high-concept ad with enough pizzazz in the execution to make it an emotional hit.


3-STAR: HALIFAX – “That New Home Feeling”

OK, it’s not really a Fluent Device yet – but if it’s a hit for Halifax, you feel the adventures of this living slinky spring could definitely stretch to more ads. Disco tracks are often crowd-pleasers in ads, and the animatronic toy boogies its way to 3-Stars, even if the enjoyable randomness of the narrative gets a bit subordinated to the “New Home Feeling” insight at the end.

3-STAR: IRN-BRU – “Irn Screw”

Halifax aren’t the only UK advertisers bringing household objects to life this month. Irn-Bru, the cult Scottish drink with a heritage of edgy ads, returned to screens with the “Irn-Screw”, a talking screw with a thirst for the orange brew. Violent, funny, bizarre and delightfully on-brand – it’s good to see work like this hitting the 3-Star mark.

3-STAR: RANGE ROVER – “A Dog’s Dream“

Putting a dog in your ad is often the way to make an emotional impact with a US audience, and Range Rover will have hoped for a strong response to the wistful canine in its ad for its Evoque brand. In fact, by the standards of dog ads, 3-Stars is respectable but not exceptional. Perhaps the fact the poor pooch didn’t see its dream fulfilled told against the ad, which ends on a slightly flat note.

2-STAR: JACK DANIELS – “We’re Jack Daniel’s”

Jack Daniel’s minute-long black-and-white brand montage – set to a fiery Link Wray soundtrack – is bullish, distinctive, steeped in brand identity…. and also just a tiny bit boring. Or at least that’s what our respondents felt, with an adequate but unexciting 2-Star response. However, the ad is extremely well-branded. It got one of our highest Spike scores – predicting short-term impact – of the month. It won’t do much for JD in the long run, but there’s no escaping who this is for, and its confidence should give a short-term sales lift.


Brands play with category codes at their peril. Watch with the sound off and this Tide spot could be a car ad or a jeans commercial – you need the voiceover, with its gritty evocations of sweat, dirt and work, to get where the brand is coming from. Do people respond to those images and ideas in a cleaning product context? Not really, if this 1-Star result is any guide. Tide have been bold and tried something different, but it hasn’t landed well.

1-STAR: BARCLAYCARD – “Antarctica’s Got Talent”

In an often moribund UK financial category, Barclaycard have taken risks this year with some high-concept ads – like January’s bizarre “Crystal Barn” spot advertising its small business advice. Now it’s hired Simon Cowell to put its new financial planning calculator under the spotlight. From a PR perspective, the Antarctica’s Got Talent stunt worked well, with plenty of the UK press reporting this “launch” as something real. As an advert, though, it scored a low 1-Star, for the simple reason that a lot of people really dislike Simon Cowell. Using famous but unpopular people in your ad often misfires – while they might want to see Cowell frozen, that doesn’t actually translate into a positive response to the ad, or to Barclaycard.

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