Thirty Million Viewers. Twenty-One Ads.

To download the World Cup Semi Finals Case Study, go here

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The thirty million people who watched last week’s World Cup semi-final – 24m on TV, 6m through the ITV digital hub – is the biggest live commercial TV audience ever in the UK. For advertisers, it was a once-in-a-generation opportunity for audience reach.

But did advertisers make the most of it? Unlike with the US’ Super Bowl, where brands plan their ads for months in advance, the England v Croatia game was an unexpected bonus for a team few expected to perform as well as they did. The ads which aired that night – data provided by Ebiquity – are much more like a typical evening’s TV advertising than a broadcasting event. Humble 20-second ads for anti-dandruff shampoo shared space with expensive-looking marquee campaigns from BT Plus and Samsung.

How good were the ads that 30 million watched? System1 Ad Ratings, which tests every ad that airs for long-term profitable brand growth potential, can answer that question. This presentation tracks the creative quality of everything that aired in our Ad Ratings categories, and reveals the most and least effective work.

The winner? Heineken’s “Now You Can” ad for its 0.0 brand zero-alcohol beer. The wooden spoon? Alpecin Shampoo’s bizarre “Fight For Your Hair!”.

What the market research study reveals is that the biggest night for commercial TV ever was also fairly typical – only a third of the ads tested gained 3-Stars or above in Ad Ratings’ predictive measure of long-term growth potential. A similar proportion ended up with 1-Star, suggesting that – from a brand-building perspective – the money was largely wasted. Brand size or prestige is no guide to quality – the 1-Star ads include market leaders like Gillette and much-admired brands like Apple.

Looking at the night’s ads also highlights some missed opportunities. Wish’s campaign included one of the best World Cup ads we tested, but for the big game they chose a 1-Star execution featuring Paul Pogba. Yorkshire Tea’s ad starring triathletes the Brownlee brothers was the second- best ad of the night – but only a part of the audience saw it, as the brand had bought time only in certain ITV regions.

This more comprehensive view is what makes Ad Ratings valuable as an aid for ad testing, brand testing and planning. The sheer scale of the audience reach means any advertisers will feel happy to have taken a slot during the semi-final. But our study shows that some should be far happier than others.


At System1, we help advertisers make confident, creative decisions that lead to transformational business results. Our powerful ad testing platform (Test Your Ad) and our idea testing platform (Test Your Idea) help brands predict the commercial potential of ads and ideas. Complementing TYA and TYI is Test Your Brand, our brand monitoring tool which measures the impact of ads and ideas on brand health, ensuring long-term brand growth through predictive success.

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