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Modern Marketing Brand Strategy Most Effective Ads of the Month

Cadbury’s soulful ‘Garage’ tops the UK public’s favorite ads in January


By John McCarthy | Media editor

January 31, 2023 | 7 min read

Jon Evans at System1 explains how the marketing industry’s darlings aren’t always the most effective ads in the eyes of the Great British public. Here are the real ads that were most enjoyed by real people.

Cadbury and VCCP 'Garage' campaign

Cadbury’s soulful ‘Garage’ tops the UK public’s favorite ads in January / VCCP

Each month, hundreds of new TV ads launch in the UK. We tasked marketing research and effectiveness company System1 with analyzing the latest creative to test which spots real members of the public liked best. In January, explains chief marketing officer Jon Evans, Cadbury’s ‘Garage’ was the clear winner.

How it works

System1 tests ads on measures that predict long-term brand growth (star rating) and short-term sales growth (spike rating) – each between one and six stars. These measures are validated using the independent Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) database and against real sales data at a category level.

Bring on the ads...

What Evans says

January is typically a fallow month for UK media and advertising, a post-Christmas lull with slimmed-down spend and few big new campaigns. But January 2023 defied the stereotype with a much-talked-about new McDonald’s campaign and one of the highest-scoring ads of any year.

5. McDonald’s ‘Fancy a McDonald’s? #RaiseYourArches’ (4.7 stars)

Read the report.

“Sometimes the industry adores an ad and the viewing public just doesn’t get the fuss. Happily, the literally eyebrow-raising new work from McDonald’s is a case where adland and the audience are united: ‘#RaiseYourArches’ is a beautifully choreographed winner. The ad’s bouncy soundtrack and its highly meme-able central gesture make it a joy to watch (and imitate), while a lot of the industry buzz was around McDonald’s boldness in not showing any food, restaurants or even a logo beyond a hastily-drawn M. A recipe for branding failure? Hardly – with massive recognition, the ad has exceptional brand fluency and not a burger in sight.”

4. Red Bull ‘Dog on Skateboard’ (4.8 stars)

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“Another ad where stripped-back branding has zero impact on effectiveness. The traditional ‘gives you wings’ slogan is only shown, not said, and for brand recognition, this ad relies on people immediately spotting that distinctive sketchy animation style. Of course, they do – even after 26 years, no ad looks quite like a Red Bull ad. It’s another very strong score for one of Britain’s longest-running fluent device campaigns. You can teach an old brand new tricks, but sometimes you don’t need to.”

3. First Class Holidays ‘We Love Canada. You Will Too’ (5 stars)

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“Canada claims the first five-star travel ad of the year with a spot that doesn’t stray from the successful tourism formula of spectacular scenery set to uplifting music. This one is targeted at a slightly older audience – there are none of the family shots you often get in tourism ads – but that hasn’t stopped it resonating with a wider audience who share the dream of a relaxing getaway.”

2. Dogs Trust ‘A dog is for life’ (5.2 stars)

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“Charities like Dogs Trust have the difficult job of continually finding new ways to deliver the same basic message, that a dog deserves a lifetime commitment. In the past, they’ve run tear-jerking ads about abandoned pets and heart-warming ads about dogs who’ve found a forever home. This ad skillfully combines the two, with a huge spike in sadness as it looks like the lead character has given away his pet... before resolving it with a flourish. It’s the Dogs Trust’s highest-ever Test Your Ad score and rightly so – this is a beautiful piece of storytelling.”

1. Cadbury ‘Garage’ (5.9 stars)

Read the report

“Cadbury and agency VCCP are modern advertising’s great poets of the everyday, able to find magic in the most mundane interactions. Kicking a ball over a fence, buying your mom a present, and now visiting an all-night garage – all scenarios in which the brand has spun into five-star gold. The anesthetics of Cadbury’s ads are a lesson in themselves, ruthlessly removing anything which takes away from the naturalism and human connection in what they’re filming. Their latest ads get their joint highest score yet, a maximum 5.9 stars on the Test Your Ad rating scale. And – as has become a theme this month – it’s all done with as little branding as it can get away with.”

Check out last month’s list where travel ads dominated.

Modern Marketing Brand Strategy Most Effective Ads of the Month

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