Marketing Brand Strategy Media Planning and Buying

Food dominates January’s highest-rated UK ads


By John McCarthy | Opinion editor

February 3, 2022 | 7 min read

The Drum has scoured System1’s database (which includes most UK TV ads) to learn what the best work was in January, weighed using a complex scoring algorithm and real audience feedback. Jon Evans, chief marketing officer at System1, talks us through why Asda, Tesco, Weetabix and more made the cut.


Take a look at January’s highest-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. 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 out on top.

January’s top ads

10) Weetabix: ‘Any Which Way-A-Bix’

Star rating: 3.2

A cheap and cheerful ad for the iconic cereal that mostly focuses on the different ways you can eat it. The voiceover gives it a topical spin, with references to Veganuary, self-driving cars and remote working, and the whole piece has a jolly, quirky vibe. Not Weetabix’s finest work, but a solid three-star effort that will keep mental availability high – whether or not you fancy it with kiwi fruit.

9) Deliveroo: ‘Food. We Get It’

Star rating: 3.2

Ultra-rapid cutting, voiceover, abstracted products, ingredients, body parts and a thumping rhythmic soundtrack. For short-term activation – and it doesn’t get more short term than a takeaway app – that’s what’s needed. While the ad manages a respectable three-star score thanks to the mouthwatering procession of ‘food porn’ shots, it’s the short-term measures where it really excels.

8) Wiltshire Farm Foods: ‘Bringing Sunshine To Your Door’

Star rating: 3.5

Watch here.

The frozen ready meal delivery company makes its TV debut with that old standby of feelgood advertising, the staff singalong. The song – Bring Me Sunshine – is well chosen, and will remind the older target demographic of Morecambe and Wise. And the format may be cringy, but it works. It’s a good way of getting a smile, establishing a connection and presenting your company as friendly, not faceless.

7) Patak’s: ‘Patak’s Makes Perfect’

Star rating: 3.6

Patak’s has been off our screens for years, but its return lands well with a solid three-star effort. The brand is remembered for nostalgic ads that play heavily on Indian family traditions. This lively new ad works to bring that reputation up to date, starting off back in 1925 with a traditional aunty figure, then skipping forward a generation at a time. It ends up in 2022 with a family table and the latest heir to the Patak’s tradition. Not only is this an ad that emphasizes connection and family, but it’s also a great way for Patak’s to position itself for the future – having paid respect to tradition, it now has the freedom to make ads that aren’t so tied to the past.

6) Rowse: ‘The Squeeze That Protects The Bees’

Star rating: 3.6

Rowse’s new campaign – promoting its purposeful work for initiatives protecting bees – initially feels quite dour, and it’s the brand, not necessarily the execution, that’s driving happiness here (response goes up as soon as it appears). That shows the danger of taking this slightly generic, serious approach – but fortunately the ad takes a more optimistic turn and finishes well. ‘The squeeze that protects the bees’ is a great tagline too, connecting the abstract environmental claim with the very familiar physical act of using the brand.

5) Asda: ‘Life Tastes Better In Full Colour’

Star rating: 3.7

Asda hit three stars with an ad that flies the flag for healthy eating with a scrumptious display of colourful fruit and veg. The contrast between the dreary outside and dazzling inside of the store works well, and the supermarket takes a friendly, upbeat and encouraging tone, playing on the power of the rainbow as a sign of vitality.

4) Anchor: ‘Caf’ On Wheels’

Star rating: 3.7

Anchor taps into a very British quirkiness in this playful ad. Don’t look for a plot or explanation, just enjoy the Alice-In-Wonderland-style shifts in gravity and perspective. A bouncy soundtrack pulls the aesthetic together. It’s all in the service of the mood-lightening effects of butter – another food brand dodging health questions by appealing to a sense of pleasure and indulgence.

3) AHDB: ‘Nancy Investigates Beef’

Star rating: 3.8

It’s a bold move to run a meat marketing ad at the start of Veganuary, but the Agriculture And Horticulture Development Board get it right with this endearing three-star ad. It’s certainly message-heavy, but the message is delivered by a perky child, which prevents it being simply a lecture. It’s a smart move of AHDB to frame the ad as a dialogue. It creates a sense of betweenness and connection across generations that helps push positive response up.

2) Tesco: ‘Price Match With Aldi’

Star rating: 4.1

Making a price match announcement entertaining is no easy task. Tesco takes a radical approach: the bulk of this ad has nothing to do with Tesco, Aldi or prices. It’s a guy demonstrating his elaborate homemade contraption to an audience of one dog, with a jaunty old-timey soundtrack. The whole thing has only one purpose – to keep audiences watching so they have more chance of remembering the price match. The execution has so much charm though that the ad delights as well as grabs attention.

1) Creme Egg: ‘Bed’

Star rating: 4.5

The Easter campaigns kicked off this year in early January, but viewers don’t seem to mind, with ‘Bed’ getting the highest score of a quiet month. It’s an amusing play on the classic Creme Egg slogan ‘How do you eat yours?’ to promote the brand’s latest cash prize giveaway. The man in the ad is surprisingly gloomy about the win: it means he can’t eat his egg. Cadbury has quietly developed a very distinctive style for their ads – a naturalistic look with zero music and few edits. It emphasizes the human connection in the ads, which accounts for how an ad that’s just a brief, unresolved conversation can make people feel so good.

Deeper insights here.

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