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Creative Brand Strategy

Apple wins out in the top 5 US ads of August


By The Drum, Editorial

August 31, 2023 | 7 min read

What are the necessary ingredients to make a great ad? System1 Chief customer officer Jon Evans breaks down the five ads that resonated most with US audiences in August – and what makes them stand out.


A three-legged pup gains a prosthetic leg with the help of technology in a recent ad from Apple. / Apple

In this month's advertising lineup, a delightfully food-friendly theme takes the spotlight, cleverly intertwining fluent characters to elevate that star score. We welcome nostalgic appearances such as the Pillsbury Doughboy and Kellogg's’ Tony the Tiger, echoing the sentiments in Orlando Wood’s book, Look Out. And let’s not forget Apple's latest emotionally charged ad, claiming the top spot on the leaderboard!

5. Mint Mobile ‘Deflating the Price’

Star rating: 4.0

Mint's most recent creative shines as a 4-Star contender, boasting a remarkable short-term spike and a spot in the top 20 mobile ads in the US. The ad features comical slapstick, with Ryan Reynolds engaging in a playful showdown against a colossal red inflatable figure to convey the brand’s commitment to low prices at a time when many wireless carriers are raising them.

Whether conquering inflation or an inflatable, Reynolds' savvy choice makes audiences smile, utilizing an age-old advertising technique with a fresh twist!

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4. Publix: ‘Bringing People Closer’

Star rating: 4.1

In a stirring Publix advertisement, a stepfather's unwavering commitment to his new family takes center stage, tapping into relatable scenarios that strike a chord with viewers. The ad captures genuine interactions, highlighting the significance of facial expressions in conveying authenticity – a strategy praised by Orlando Wood in Look Out. The pivotal transition from "thanks Chris" to "thanks Dad" triggers a surge of surprise and happiness on FaceTrace, a platform that maps the emotional journey of viewers, illustrating the power of using emotion as the primary marketing tactic.

3. Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes Cheers: ‘They’re That Great’

Star rating: 4.2

People often associate beloved cereal mascots with happier feelings, which forges a stronger connection between the brand and consumers. Tony the Tiger's appearance in this Kellogg’s ad triggers a surge of happiness in our real-time FaceTrace analysis, which subsequently enhances its fluency (brand recognition) score.

Leo Burnett makes the smart creative decision of weaving in well-known melodic music (the theme from Cheers) into tough yet humorous situations, with the consumer attention stuck on the irresistible bowl of cereal. This clever approach blends humor with the allure of the product, making the advertisement both engaging and appetizing.

2. Pillsbury: ‘Quick Recipe’

Star rating: 4.4

Pillsbury's effective advertising strategy revolves around leveraging their enduring 58-year-old mascot, the Doughboy. This latest campaign features a TikTok-inspired video, widening its appeal across demographics. By tapping into the universal habit of seeking quick and easy meal ideas, Pillsbury strikes a relatable chord with viewers. The campaign showcases mouthwatering croissants that not only look good but also cook quickly, resonating with viewers' desire for convenience and great flavor. A strong 4.4-Star score demonstrates the power of consistently leveraging recognizable, fluent devices.

1. Apple: ‘The Invincibles’

Star rating: 5.4

Stories about dogs have a special way of touching our hearts, and Apple's latest ad takes this approach up a notch. The ad follows the journey of a three-legged dog named Trip, whose life changes when he gets a prosthetic leg crafted with the help of the iPhone. This makes it to the top of all the Apple ads tested at System1, highlighting the benefits brands realize when maintaining a linear narrative (like the brand does with its ‘Shot on iPhone’ series), melodic music and an uplifting ending!

This ingenious marketing strategy strikes a chord with dog enthusiasts everywhere, affirming the bond we share with our four- (or three- or two-) legged friends and the potential for technology to give them a happier life!


System1 analyzes ads based on measures that predict long-term brand growth (star rating) and short-term sales growth (spike rating). 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. 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). Often the work that receives the highest ratings comes as a surprise to everyone.

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