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Sky, Baileys and Co-op top December's highest rated UK ads

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By John McCarthy | Media editor

January 4, 2022 | 9 min read

Ad ranking database System1 has shared its highest-ranked UK December 2021 creative.

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Sky, Bailey's and Co-op top December's high rated UK ads

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. The Star Rating captures the emotional response to an ad – viewers are asked what they felt about it and how strongly.

Jon Evans, chief marketing officer at System1, explains.

10. Guinness, 'Good Things Within Our Grasp', 3.3

Finally, a clever ad that’s a victim of bad timing. Guinness’ Christmas ad has it all - lovely use of distinctive brand assets, a great version of a Christmas No.1 hit, and a narrative culminating in the much-awaited return to the pub for festive cheer. Except as luck would have it, it’s released with the hospitality sector reeling from worries about a new Covid variant. The ad still gets a decent score - 3.3-stars - but you can’t help feeling it might have done better in an Omicron-free world.

Report here.

9. The Famous Grouse, 'Spend Time In Grouse Country', 3.4

Watch a 10-second cut here.

A stylish vignette starring the brand’s grouse mascot, which it’s gradually been building up into a viable lead character and Fluent Device for its ads. In this one the bird takes a ride on a curling stone, giving the ad a surreal but charming air. The brand could push this likeable bird harder and give it more to do - it’s clearly creating positive feeling.

Report here.

8. Fujifilm Instax, 'Don’t Just Take, Give', 3.4

Digital photography hasn’t quite done away with cameras yet - instant camera brands like Instax have a niche as a way of creating physical souvenirs of a moment. It’s not specifically a Christmas ad, but it’s one that relies for its emotional effect on the social side of the holiday season, with plenty of between-ness in the ad.

Report here.

7. Matalan, 'Christmas Play', 3.6

A chaotic homemade Nativity play stars in Matalan’s seasonal ad, part of its ongoing 'Real Life Ready' campaign. At 3.6-stars it’s not going to challenge the big grocery retailers but for a mid-level clothing store this is a more than respectable showing, with plenty of joyful moments and human connection to build a positive feeling.

Report here.

6. American Express, 'Shop Small', 3.6

Amex empathizes with the pain of gift shopping - and the joy of finding something just right - in this ad. It relies heavily on the adaptation of a familiar song - Erasure’s 'A Little Respect' - but a familiar melody is a good way of getting attention. As with some of this month’s other ads, though, short-term Spike and brand recognition are low as the Amex brand only appears late.

Report here.

5. Pringles, 'Wreath', 4

There’s a reason people don’t make advent wreaths out of Pringles, as one party host discovers in this enjoyably silly 20-second spot. It’s an ad with a single bit of news to deliver - Pringles have some Xmas limited editions out - so rather than belabor that fact it wisely uses most of its time to tell a joke. Humor is one of advertising’s secret weapons and Pringles deploys it well here.

Report here.

4. Visit Wales, 4.3

Tourism ads need to strike a balance between the beautiful scenery or exciting activities and the more human elements - people enjoying themselves and relaxing together. Visit Wales goes heavy on the latter, following one family on their holiday as they explore the wildness of the Welsh coast. There’s a load of non-verbal communication and a real sense of wonder at a human scale. The only flaw - as the low short-term Spike and Brand Fluency scores show - is that this feels like an ad for taking a break rather than one specifically for Wales.

Report here.

3. Co-op, 'Community Field', 4.5

The Co-op: Live Christmas Ad by Lucky Generals

By The Co-op

Overall Rating 5/5

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Live ads pose more than just technical risks for a brand - they often fall down on effectiveness too. The Co-Op’s Christmas ad - broadcast live on ITV in a special 2-minute slot - is an exception, partly because Dermot O’Leary’s energetic presence is so familiar. He makes the ad feel like part of a charity telethon, so the “live” element doesn’t seem like a gimmick.

It’s also a very good use of brand purpose - a community food project aligns perfectly with the Co-op, whose ethos is all about coming together for mutual benefit. That wins audiences over so they forgive the ad’s length and heavy use of straight-to-camera monologue. Overall this is a risk that paid off for the Co-Op, as well as testament to ITV’s efforts to keep the TV ad format fresh and relevant.

Report here.

2. Baileys, 'Don’t Mind If I Baileys Christmas', 4.9

Baileys’ 'Don’t Mind If I Baileys' campaign has won effectiveness awards for how well it refreshed the brand as a grown-up treat: something cheeky, indulgent and sociable. Its latest Christmas ad is firmly in this vein - a hostess dealing with a setback with style. As usual with Baileys the brief story is mixed with close-up shots of scrumptious looking alcoholic treats, meaning the brand is ever-present without needing a hard sell.

The ad's not available online but you can watch it on the System 1 website report here.

1. Sky, 'Sing 2 Christmas', 5.6

With a library of top Christmas movies, Sky’s own ads usually create plenty of positive feeling. But sometimes it can go further and do something really special - original content co-created with one of those properties. In this case the animators of the upcoming Sing 2 have worked with Sky (and Comcast in the US) to create a short film with the characters from the movie worrying one of them won’t get home for Christmas. She turns up in the most unlikely way, creating a big surge of feeling and a terrific 5-star score.

With subtle but effective branding this is a bit of genuine synergy between the brand and the media property as well as a charming story in its own right. Even better than Kevin The Carrot? Well, December-launched Christmas ads like this one tend to score higher than November ones (the nearer you get the more Christmassy you feel) but their shelf life is much shorter, so our Christmas list cuts off at the end of November.

Report here.

Watch November's round-up here.

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