The Good, The Bad And The Aldi

How good are German ads compared to the ads in other countries? At the Insights & Werbewirkungsgipfel conference in Frankfurt last month, Kathrin Posnanski presented some new research into recent German ads, pointing out effective and ineffective work and offering tips on how to make it better.

The System1 Research Team in Hamburg tested a selection of 83 recent German ads, hunting for work that’s effective in long-term brand building. We compared the ads to our global database of advertising from around the world, and found that German advertisers are a bit better than average at avoiding the 1-Star work which leads to zero long-term growth.

However, it’s still the case that not many German ads are hitting the 4- and 5-Star levels where creative work can massively amplify media spend and work hardest to build brands.

Let’s have a look at a few of the ads we tested, to show the progression from 1-Star to 5-Stars in the German market.


First up it’s online car dealership wirkaufendeinauto, with a very straightforward ad that doesn’t resonate with consumers at all – the overtly sales-driven message and plain approach leaves them feeling nothing. And with a low short-term Spike score, they don’t even notice the brand.

Brands are often tempted into this message-heavy kind of advertising, and it can sometimes move the needle in the short-term, but in the long-term it does little or nothing to grow a business. With a more entertaining approach the brand could have left more favourable impressions on viewers, building positive associations for the future.

2-Star: Babbel

Language-learning app Babbel takes a humorous approach in its ad showing an alien trying to learn English. At 2-Stars it doesn’t quite hit the emotional spot, but at least the brand Fluency and Spike Score is good, showing some short-term potential. How could it be better? Alexei the alien is perceived as dislikeable thus people are blocked early on and don’t enjoy the story. Overall, the ad spends too much of its length on product demonstration and voiceover – it’s on the right track but would need executional tweaks to fulfil its potential.

3-Star: Aldi

Aldi’s ad uses clever special effects to show a barbeque chef stopping time and playing pranks on his fellow guests. It’s surreal and entertaining. For long-term growth potential this sales ad does a good job – this is a 3-Star ad. It’s funny, well-produced and well-acted, with a certain amount of schadenfreude, one of the more valuable types of happiness for brands to tap into. Perhaps it could have been improved by giving a better reason for the pranks, or by actually showing the pizza-in-the-face outcome.

4-Star: McDonalds

McDonalds’ 4-Star ad also leans on the schadenfreude – we watch a bratty child get his come-uppance – but it performs so well because of two factors: it uses storytelling very well, amping up the negative emotions before resolving them positively (with the help of the brand), and it picks a strong piece of music which reinforces the story and makes the whole ad more entertaining. A simple idea well told and well acted by its child stars, which gets a deservedly high score.

5-Star: Haribo

What makes Haribo’s ad a 5-Star success? Fluency. The Fluent Device of recording kids’ playing and then recreating their play with adult actors has been a recurring success for Haribo. A repeated idea like this builds emotional appeal across a campaign and also creates strong brand recognition and Fluency – as soon as viewers see the adults with kids’ voices they know they’re watching a Haribo ad, and what’s more, they know they’ll probably like it. The fact it’s such a strong articulation of the brand’s promise – Haribo appealing to the kid in us all – is a welcome bonus.

Storytelling, music and fluent devices are just three of the ways you can make your ads stand out executionally and help them amplify your spend for long-term growth. For more details on the German ads study and the work our System1 Research team in Hamburg does, get in touch.

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