There are plenty of interesting, funny or absurd ads out there, but what spots are truly effective when it comes to connecting with consumers for the long term? System1 has developed its ‘star rating’ scoring algorithm to answer that very question. Jon Evans, chief marketing officer at System1, tells us which ads were most effective last month and why.
System1 tests ads on measures that predict long-term brand growth (Star Rating) and short-term sales growth (Spike Rating) – each between one and five stars. These measures are validated using the independent IPA database and also against real sales data at a category level.
The Star Rating captures the emotional response to an ad – viewers are asked what they felt about it and how strongly. Only 1% of ads on the system score five stars. A one-star ad will have zero effect on brand growth, while a five-star ad will have an exceptional impact (up to three points of market share gain, depending on investment). It’s important to score well – and it’s rarely the work you think that comes on top.
Evans talks us through the top five performing ads in the US in November.
November’s top ads
5) Kohl’s: Dance with all your heart
Star Rating: 4.7
A grandparent/grandchild story rounds out the list, with a nervous boy asking his grandma to dance at a Christmas gathering. It’s a charming vignette of a very traditional family Christmas, which lands its emotion through the facial expressions and the sense of ‘betweenness’ between the boy, grandmother and her husband working the gramophone. A carefully-positioned Kohl’s gift box makes sure the brand gets in on the act without getting in the way.
4. Macy’s: Tiptoe and the flying machine
Star Rating: 4.8
Macy’s is one of America’s most consistent Christmas brands – it topped the US System1 list last year with a celebration of small-town community and a story of some magic shoes. This year it has opted for a very European-style Christmas ad – an animated story of Christmas friendship that could easily have come from one of the UK or Germany’s big retail brands. The story of Tiptoe the reindeer gets the emotions going with a 4.8-star score, but is a little disappointing on short-term impact and brand recognition – a sign that while Macy’s has created a lovely story, it has not managed to stamp it with its own distinctive brand.
3. Disney Resorts: Magic is here
Star Rating: 4.8
While Disney’s home streaming service thrived during the pandemic, its resorts had a much rougher time. Visitor numbers plunged and the Magic Kingdom has sought to woo people back with a new positioning: ‘Magic is here.’ It’s a tagline that stresses how great it is to experience Disney in real life, and the very strong scores for this festive version of the campaign suggest it’ll do the job.
2. Etsy: Give more than a gift
Star Rating: 5.2
Etsy’s brand is all about unique, personal gifts, and it uses that to make a point about inclusion in this ad. It’s the story of a Black grandpa who makes sure his grandchild gets to meet Santa when they’re out shopping – but feels a little sad he can’t be Santa himself. Fortunately, thanks to Etsy, there’s a gift out there that proves Father Christmas is a more inclusive concept that he thought. It’s an ad that crams a whole lot of story into 30 seconds, but pulls it off thanks to some great non-verbal communication between the older man and the boy. A lovely piece of craft and a worthy 5-stars.
1. Lindt: Delicious taste
Star Rating: 5.4
Lindt is a heavy hitter, even in the highly competitive chocolate and candy category – it’s scored many a 5-star ad with a relentless focus on the aesthetic pleasure of chocolate (always created by its handsome ‘master chocolatier’ of course). The Christmas ad is no exception – a Lindor chocolate here works as a way to heighten a magic moment of Christmas cheer. Subtle it ain’t, but Lindt knows exactly what it is doing by now – every second of the ad contributes to the sense of indulgent pleasure, and it’s no surprise to see it land another 5-star score for the brand.