Ad Ratings Roundup – March’s Best And Worst New Ads

System1 Ad Ratings features over 32,000 ads, each rated for long- and short-term potential. Every month we add around 1,000 new commercials to the database. Here are 10 of the most interesting new campaigns from March.

5-STAR: HERSHEY’S – “Heartwarming The World”

The top scoring TV ad last month was a 15-second edit of this long, digital-first film by Hershey’s, part of their “Heartwarming The World” campaign. It follows two men, Mustafa and Ahmad, who aim to bring smiles to New Jersey via notes hidden in Hershey’s bars.

At full length this didn’t make many waves, but at 15 seconds it makes for a short, sweet, 5-Star emotional package. It also did exceptionally well on our short-term Spike measure – as Hershey’s ads tend to.

What’s interesting about this ad is how it takes the formulas and language of “brand purpose” – people on a mission, a fake-documentary format – and adapts it to just… giving people free candy. In doing so, it outscores most of the purpose-based advertising out there.


It’s very rare for a banking ad to get 5-Stars. CapitalOne manage it through their sponsorship of the NCAA March Madness event, and via a witty ad which draws on the star power of basketball legends Larry Bird and Charles Barkley. Though Larry the Bird comes close to upstaging his namesake!

It’s very similar in tone to the NFL’s annual Super Bowl ads celebrating themselves, which always tend to perform strongly. People like seeing celebrities having fun at their own expense.

One thing of note – we saw four 5-Star US ads this month (Google and Coca-Cola scored the other two) and all four starred people of color. At a time when the ad industry is explicitly looking to increase the diversity and inclusion of advertising, that’s a solid vote of emotional confidence from viewers.

4-STAR: KONA BREWING COMPANY – “Little Vacation”

We’ve written before about how the craft beer wave in US brewing seems to have sparked an identity crisis among big brewers.

The flipside of that is that craft beers themselves can make ads like this Kona spot – relaxed, sunny, good-natured, and entirely authentic in feel. And people respond – this is a 4-Star commercial.

The two gentlemen in the ad have been Kona’s stars for years, and the brand leans heavily on its Hawaiian heritage. It’s unpretentious, feelgood advertising and it works a treat.

4-STAR: BAILEYS – “Easter Cocktail”

With Easter on the way, we expect plenty of confectionery ads in next month’s rankings. But Baileys gets in early, with the latest instalment in their IPA Award winning “Don’t Mind If I Baileys” campaign. This particular 4-Star ad isn’t on YouTube, but you can check out the campaign as a whole in this video.

The Easter version of the ad is very similar to its Christmas iteration – this time it’s eggs, not chocolate reindeer, being used as vessels for Baileys. The ad also draws on this cocktail recipe, which went viral last Easter – a good example of a brand using consumer creativity as a springboard for its own ads.


Congratulations Kenny The Koala, winner of our inaugural FLUENT DEVICE OF THE MONTH award. Kenny is the mascot for Cushelle toilet paper, the UK brand which used to be Charmin.

Over the past few years it’s successfully swapped out Charmin’s old bear mascot for Cushelle’s lovable Koala, and has become confident enough to star the creature in its own animated adventures.

While he has a way to go to reach the status of category rival the Andrex puppy, Kenny’s ads are performing well – this bathroom escape got a very high 3-Star score, and also did well on the short-term Spike metric.

3-STAR: LANCOME – “Who Will You Make Happy Today?”

Perfume ads often seem to be stuck in a creative time warp – the same stale, story-free images of disconnected luxury which invariably score 1- or 2-Stars. Credit to L’Oreal’s Lancome for breaking through that ceiling with this superior 3-Star effort.

Whether it’s Julia Roberts’ star power, the sympathetic power of smiles and happiness, the Rihanna cover soundtrack, or the more coherent than usual storyline, this ad hits the emotional spot in a way that’s rare for its category.

3-STAR: KRAFT – “Table Escape”

Kraft have been in the news for the wrong reasons recently, with their commercial write-down roiling investors and sparking accusations of under-investment in brand. Are their ads to blame, or are there broader issues at work?

This high 3-Star ad for Kraft’s iconic Mac And Cheese product creates enough of an emotional glow to suggest there’s still a ton of affection for the brand and its traditional approach. But the narrative – kid rejects vegetables but embraces Mac and Cheese – also reminds you of some of the issues Kraft has in a world of healthier eating trends.

2-STAR: SMART – “The Smart urbanshadow”

“It’s bigger than small” is carmaker Smart’s new tagline for its urbanshadow vehicle – which tackles head-on the thing the brand’s best known for. This ad is stylish but choppy and leaves its audience feeling not much – it’s an average, 2-Star piece of work.

We’ve been talking a lot about left-brained and right-brained advertising recently. This is an example of an ad which leans heavily on a left-brained communication style – lots of text on screen, lots of abstracted shots of parts (not wholes) of things, and a highly rhythmic soundtrack.

Our initial studies have shown that this approach often sacrifices emotional engagement and connection. And with a weak short-term Spike score, it doesn’t do a lot for activation either.


In the highly competitive UK price comparison sector, Moneysupermarket have never been afraid to take risks. Their “Epic Strut” and “Epic Skeletor” ads provoked strong emotional response (though not always positive) and were highly memorable.

This new campaign picked up industry attention, but doesn’t seem likely to make that kind of impact. Special effects and a solid insight – people want to feel relaxed about their money – don’t necessarily add up to much emotionally, and this ends up only getting 1-Star. Its Spike score is mediocre too. Hopefully future ads will show a bit more spark.

1-STAR: APPLE – “Privacy Matters”

Watch out, watch out, there’s a “techlash” about – consumers are getting shook up about how their data is being used, and Apple have seen an opportunity to take a stand, with this TV ad touting their commitment to consumer privacy.

It’s a noble aim, and a strong claim – if Apple can live up to it. But there’s also a danger in highlighting the negatives of technology – it can leave people who haven’t thought about the issue feeling upset, frightened or negative.

That’s what may be happening here, as Apple’s typically quirky ad ends up with a 1-Star score. More resolution of negative emotion – perhaps through clearer storytelling – might be what Apple needs to push this button more effectively.

See you next month, for more new ads from Ad Ratings!

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