On the face of it, this year’s Adwatch league tables look strangely like last year’s – an indication, perhaps, of a nation in stasis, of advertisers reluctant to change too much before our political and economic future becomes clearer.
There are three tables: Table 1 charts the year's 20 best-recalled TV brands; Table 2 logs the ten most memorable individual ads; and Table 3 records the ten best-liked commercials researched in Adwatch throughout the year.
For the second year running, the ‘Strutters and Builders’ propelled Moneysupermarket.com to the top of Table 2 as the best-remembered commercial, with a recall percentage of 67%. The table’s other top-performers include John Lewis, WeBuyAnyCar.com, Trivago and Confused.com.
Table 3, the league of the ‘best-liked’ commercials researched during 2017, is topped by Samsung Galaxy’s ‘flying ostrich’ ad, heading a league table of commercials which (like last year) feature children and animals and, Peter Kay aside, curiously few celebrities.
2017’s top overall performer is DFS which not only retains its number one position in Table 1, but which achieves an extraordinary number of top-scoring mentions to come head-and-shoulders above all competitors
Morag Blazey, global head of market intelligence at Ebiquity, which sources our annual budget figures, feels this is significant. She says: "2017 adhered to all the received wisdom of creating successful campaigns – consistency of spend and creative treatment, ideally featuring animals or children. The use of celebrities is starting to feel a bit old hat. Advertisers are creating their own celebrities – strutters, meerkats, singing toddlers. And this seems to be what is now striking a chord among the viewing public."
However, 2017’s top overall performer is DFS, which not only retains its number one position in Table 1 but also achieves an extraordinary number of top-scoring mentions to come head-and-shoulders above all competitors. Krow’s Aardman-animated characters, now into their second year, are defying DFS’s in-store gloom with extraordinary levels of recall on a budget slightly lower than last year’s.
Runner-up, Oak Furniture Land, also turned in an incredible performance – and, on a TV budget of less than £30 million, deserves a special mention as the best-value TV advertising of the year. And Cancer Research UK, the only charity to have appeared in Adwatch of the Year in the past decade, definitely did well to hit 15th place with a TV budget of less than £12 million.
At the other end of the scale however, with a budget twice the size of any other top 20 advertiser, Sky will be disappointed to have dropped from third place to ninth.
Aldi, a top-three performer for the past four years, has fallen to sixth place (although its budget has also gone down considerably); and credit to Sainsbury’s – its brave new campaign gives it its first Adwatch of the Year appearance for five years. But the year’s top-scoring supermarket is undoubtedly Tesco – back in the top five for the first time since 2011.
Tesco is one of four brands that appear in all three 2017 tables, the others being Amazon, Moneysupermarket.com and Comparethemarket.com. And Tesco’s performance is particularly noteworthy.
Ironically, while its best-recalled and best-liked commercials of the year featured Ruth Jones and Ben Miller, the summer Clubcard commercial was the double act’s Tesco swansong. The campaign, although never admired by the industry, successfully raised awareness, likeability and reputation among the general public. But it has now been replaced with ‘Food Love Stories’, which stress the retailer’s food quality credentials and celebrate the passion and care that go into the meals that Britons love.
It epitomises the shift – led by chief executive Dave Lewis – to a tighter business focus, cutting back on costs and non-food items and putting the customer at the heart of Tesco’s thinking. The strategy is paying off in business terms, with Tesco enjoying seven consecutive quarters of growth.
And the business performance is mirrored in the success of the brand’s advertising. Tesco’s marketing communications director Emma Botton told Campaign that the comms strategy is "largely driven by our Brand Health Model which is all about building the business for the long term. It shows that what drives people to choose a store – and then to return to that store – is the quality of the food, phenomenal service and value for money."
There have been 18 different ‘Food Love Stories’ commercials this year, each one tapping into the special role that food plays in our lives, while engaging with consumers on a variety of platforms. The TV is inextricably linked to out-of-home, social and digital and, crucially, that 360-degree focus enables Tesco to embrace a more inclusive customer base.
Bartle Bogle Hegarty’s deputy managing director Karen Martin explains: "We know that meals are much more than just a bunch of ingredients. Everyone has their own food love stories and by celebrating those, we seem to have come across something rather special. Perceptions of both value and quality are up since the campaign launched at the beginning of the year."
Botton says that Tesco will carry out continued customer research in order to keep the consumer right at the heart of all the brand’s activities, a focus that is now a top priority. Putting the customer first has never seemed so important. A lesson Tesco learned the hard way and one that other advertisers might wish to heed if they want to successfully navigate the uncertain economic waters that doubtless lay ahead.
Highest recall across the year
This table scores a brand’s total number of top-ten mentions scored in Adwatch's weekly research (column 5) ranked by a value-added point score (column 6). Every number one Adwatch position during the year scored 10 points, a number two position scored 9 etc. down to a score of one point for a number 10 mention.
* Data supplied by Ebiquity
TV adspend is from Nov 2016 to Oct 2017 | Total adspend includes: press, TV & radio from Nov 2016 to Oct 2017 and Outdoor, DM & Cinema from Oct 2016 to Sept 2017
Best recall in any single week
The table charts Adwatch’s highest-scoring individual commercials during 2017
* Data supplied by Ebiquity
This table shows the best-liked TV commercials researched for Adwatch over the past 12 months
Best-Liked 2017 Christmas commercials