The nation’s favourite ads’

New audience research shows that what the punters like isn’t necessarily what the ad industry appreciates. Dominic Mills reveals the UK’s best- loved ads

New audience research shows that what the punters like isn’t necessarily

what the ad industry appreciates. Dominic Mills reveals the UK’s best-

loved ads

ure, everyone in the advertising business thinks they know what makes a

good ad. They certainly know what will impress their peers and future


Sometimes, though, they care more about what the industry thinks than

what consumers say they like. And sometimes, as we all know, consumers

love and respond to ads that the business thinks are turkeys - and


There are several possible reasons for this: arrogance, an elitist

culture, a work and lifestyle culture that is miles removed from the

realities that confront the great mass of people, and the importance of

personal agendas.

But what does Joe Public like (yes, that’s like, not those tried and

trusted adland favourites, recall and awareness)? Does media spend make

a difference to how much an ad is liked? Do punters like the same ads as

professionals? Or is the consumer, to twist David Ogilvy’s famous

dictum, a ‘moron’?

To find out, Campaign commissioned Audience Research to conduct

telephone interviews in the last week of February with 200 adults who

represented a cross-section of the UK’s population by age, class, sex

and geography. Initially without prompts, respondents were asked to name

any ad - from any time - that they particularly enjoyed, and score them

for likeability from one (not at all) to ten (a lot). Mean scores were

then calculated and are shown in the tables.

A more detailed analysis of six product sectors followed. With only two

exceptions, most of the ads chosen were contemporary, which may explain

why legendary industry favourites such as Hamlet and the early BA ads

weren’t named.

There were some surprises. Nobody mentioned the National Lottery and

only one person named Andrex. BT didn’t do too badly. And three

respondents said they liked Daz - one because it was ‘unpredictable’,

another because it was ‘funny’ and a third because it was ‘true and the

product works well’. Women, for some reason, seemed to like the Fiat

Bravo/Brava ads.

All information is sourced from phone research by Audience Selection Ltd


Top 20 best-liked ads


Rank    Ad                       Agency                    Mean score

1=      Safeway                  Bates Dorland                 7.5

1=      Salt ’n’ Lineker         BMP DDB Needham               7.5

3=      Barclaycard              BMP DDB Needham               7.3

3=      PG Tips                  BMP DDB Needham               7.3

5=      Levi’s                   Bartle Bogle Hegarty          7.2

5=      Pepsi Max                BBDO                          7.2

7       Tesco                    Lowe Howard-Spink             7.1

8       Smirnoff                 Lowe Howard-Spink             7.0

9=      Peugeot 406              Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper         6.8

9=      Sainsbury’s              Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO      6.8

9=      Gold Blend               McCann-Erickson               6.8

9=      Nike                     Simons Palmer                 6.8

13      Diet Coke                Lowe Howard-Spink             6.7

14=     Halifax                  Bates Dorland                 6.6

14=     Cadbury’s Dairy Milk     Bartle Bogle Hegarty          6.6

16      Peperami                 Ammirati Puris Lintas         6.5

17=     Carling Premier          WCRS                          6.4

17=     Volvo 850                Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO      6.4

19=     Carlsberg                K Advertising                 6.3

19=     Hula Hoops               Publicis                      6.3

19=     Woolworths               Bates Dorland                 6.3





Rank    Ad/Agency                   Mean score

1       Peugeot 406                    6.8

        Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper

2       Volvo 850                      6.4

        Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO

3       Citroen AX                     6.3

        Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper

4       Vauxhall Corsa                 6.2

        Lowe Howard-Spink

5       Renault Laguna                 6.1


6       Ford Fiesta                    6.0

        Ogilvy and Mather

7       Fiat Bravo/Brava               5.7

        Barbella Gagliardi Saffirio

8       Daewoo                         5.6

        Duckworth Finn

9       Renault Clio                     -


10      Volkswagen                       -

        BMP DDB Needham

8       National Lottery Instants       67

        Saatchi and Saatchi

Weight of spend may have been partly responsible for Peugeot topping the

table, but many respondents cited the use of M People’s Search for the

Hero Inside as a major reason for liking it. Others liked the imagery.

Significantly, the ad was well received across all sectors, and by men

as much as women. By contrast, the Volvo, Ford Fiesta and Citroen ads

appealed more to women than men, and more to older people at that.

Judging by respondents’ verbatim comments, Vauxhall’s  Ruby Wax strategy

is working. And Daewoo’s straightforward approach was admired. However,

nobody mentioned Nissan, two respondents confused the Fiesta ad with the

Peugeot 106 ‘Thelma and Louise’ execution and Renault Clio and

Volkswagen were liked but not by enough people to merit a score.



Soft drinks/beverages


Rank    Ad/Agency             Mean score

1       PG Tips                   7.3

        BMP DDB Needham

2       Pepsi Max                 7.2


3       Gold Blend                6.8


4       Diet Coke                 6.7

        Lowe Howard-Spink

5       Irn-Bru                   6.4

        The Leith Agency

6       Tango                     5.8

        Howell Henry

7=      Tetley Tea                  -


7=      Coca-Cola                   -


7=      Nescafe                     -


7       National Lottery Instants  67

        Saatchi and Saatchi

8       National Lottery Instants  67

        Saatchi and Saatchi

Animals. We love ’em all, especially those sweet, furry chimps. Despite

not being on air much recently, BMP’s PG Tips chimps were almost

universally adored. Many punters loved the scripts and the portrayal of

family life in the ads. Overall, Coca-Cola sales  may be advancing, but

Pepsi Max is winning the ad war with better all-round scores. Despite

this, respondents seemed to confuse the different Coke brands, although

Coca-Cola out-scored Pepsi with older audiences, which is perhaps to be

damned with faint praise in the soft-drinks market. Still, if you can’t

get animals, then soap operas will do. Respondents are still raving

about Gold Blend’s romantic sagas several years on. Verbatim comments

about Irn-Bru suggest it still hasn’t lost its Scottish tag, despite

strenuous efforts to the contrary. Unsurprisingly, Tango scored markedly

higher with a younger audience.





Rank    Ad/Agency            Mean score

1       Salt ’n’ Lineker         7.5

        BMP DDB Needham

2       Dairy Milk               6.6

        Bartle Bogle Hegarty

3       Peperami                 6.5

        Ammirati Puris Lintas

4       Hula Hoops               6.3


5=      Lion Bar                 6.1

        J. Walter Thompson

5=      Doritos                  6.1

        BMP DDB Needham

7=      McDonald’s                 -

        Leo Burnett

7=      Dime Bar                   -

        Young and Rubicam

What, no Kit-Kat, Boost, Mars Bar or Polos? No, perhaps because they’ve

not spent much recently. Dairy Milk scored well given last year’s

‘creative’ problems between Cadbury and Bartle Bogle Hegarty. So either

the ad was better than the industry gave it credit for or Dairy Milk has

been surviving on its heritage. For some reason, though, it was less

popular with people in the South. Doritos was particularly praised by

women for its use of a nerdy hero. Salt ’n’ Lineker scored better with

women, and then best with those in the 35-54  age group. Lion Bar did

equally well with men, women and all age groups. Peperami and Hula Hoops

scored better with younger, male audiences who clearly felt comfortable

with -  enjoyed, even, going by the verbatim comments -  the aggressive

attitudes displayed in both ads. McDonald’s and Dime Bar were mentioned,

but not often enough to score. Harry Enfield obviously goes down well

with the target market.





Rank    Ad/Agency                  Mean score

1       Smirnoff                       7.0

        Lowe Howard-Spink

2       Carling Premier                6.4


3       Carlsberg                      6.3

        K Advertising

4       Holsten Pils                   6.0


5       Miller Pilsner                 6.0

        Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe

6       Martini                        5.1

        Howell Henry

7=      John Smith’s                     -

        BMP DDB Needham

7=      Boddingtons                      -

        Bartle Bogle Hegarty

7=      Guinness                         -

        Ogilvy and Mather

7       National Lottery Instants       67

        Saatchi and Saatchi

8       National Lottery Instants       67

        Saatchi and Saatchi

Unlike most booze ads, Smirnoff and Carling Premier shun humour.

Smirnoff scored higher with women (not by much) and younger, more

upmarket people. It did better the further North you go. But respondents

found it difficult to say what they liked, apart from the Northern

female who said: ‘I drink a lot of vodka.’ Carling scored well with

young men, and even better with C2DEs. Many respondents cited the music

as a plus. Miller and Holsten were enjoyed for their humour, but Miller

may have suffered from a lack of prime-time exposure. The older the

respondent, the less they liked Holsten -  much the same as with

Carlsberg. By contrast, the older and more downmarket the respondent,

the more they liked Martini, perhaps because they remembered the

original ads. John Smith’s, Boddingtons and Guinness were all cited,

without troubling the scorers.





Rank    Ad/Agency                Mean score

1       Barclaycard                  7.3

        BMP DDB Needham

2       Halifax                      6.6

        Bates Dorland

3=      Direct Line                  6.1


3=      Abbey National               6.1

        Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper

5=      Nationwide                   5.9


5=      Commercial Union             5.9

        K Advertising

7=      Allied Dunbar                5.8


7=      Midland                      5.8

        St Luke’s

6       National Lottery Instants     67

        Saatchi and Saatchi

7       National Lottery Instants     67

        Saatchi and Saatchi

8       National Lottery Instants     67

        Saatchi and Saatchi

Yes, no sightings of either Lloyds, the Prudential or NatWest.

Respondents and people in the business apparently share the view that

they’re not very likeable. Meanwhile, Barclaycard’s humorous use of

Rowan Atkinson is clearly getting the message across, with one

respondent saying: ‘You can use it for anything, anywhere, when Mr Bean

comes along.’ All of the respondents liked Midland, Allied Dunbar,

Halifax and Direct Line for their use of music, while Commercial Union

was praised for showing ‘real life’ situations. Interestingly, in every

case bar Abbey National (where they were equal), women liked the ads

more than the men. But what can it all mean?





Rank    Ad/Agency                    Mean score

1       Safeway                          7.5

        Bates Dorland

2       Tesco                            7.1

        Lowe Howard-Spink

3       Sainsbury’s                      6.8

        Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO

4       Woolworths                       6.3

        Bates Dorland

5       Asda                             6.2


6       Iceland                          5.7


7       National Lottery Instants         67

        Saatchi and Saatchi

8       National Lottery Instants         67

        Saatchi and Saatchi

6       National Lottery Instants         67

        Saatchi and Saatchi

7       National Lottery Instants         67

        Saatchi and Saatchi

8       National Lottery Instants         67

        Saatchi and Saatchi

Along with animals, there’s nothing the British public loves more than a

sweet little kid. And Harry has clearly won a place in the nation’s

hearts, as this survey demonstrates. Not surprisingly, Harry scored best

with 35-year-old C2DE women. But what will Dorlands do when Harry grows

up? Tesco scored well across all grades and classes, but not so well in

Scotland and Wales - Sainsbury’s likewise. Women and older people (55-

plus) were more inclined to like Woolworths, while Asda scored highest

in the North and Midlands -  again not surprisingly given its Yorkshire

heritage -  and the pocket-patting jingle went down extraordinarily

well. Young adults didn’t like the Iceland ad nearly as much as older