Beckham and Pepsi have come top of the 2002 Ads That Make News survey, produced by the media PR specialist Propeller Communications, with data from Media Report Editorial.
The research also found that the Daily Star, followed by The Daily Telegraph, were the national newspapers that gave the most column inches to advertising stories.
Pepsi saw off stiff competition from Sainsbury's and Walker's Crisps, whose campaigns featuring Jamie Oliver and Gary Lineker came second and third respectively. Both campaigns were produced by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO.
Marks & Spencer, in joint sixth, was a late entrant into the chart with its recently launched Christmas campaign created by Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R. This features a raft of celebrities including Cat Deeley, Graham Norton, Denise van Outen, Ronnie Barker, Joan Collins and, once again, David Beckham.
James Murphy, a managing partner at Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R, said: "Celebrities in ads are only used well if they're relevant to the values of the brand and the message.
"What you don't have this year is many ongoing, supertanker celebrity campaigns, like the Paul Hogan Foster's work. What we instead have is a random use of celebrity, which is often quite shallow."
Another World Cup campaign, this time from Nike, came fourth in the chart.
This campaign, created by Wieden & Kennedy Amsterdam, featured the Arsenal and France footballer Thierry Henry. This was followed in fifth by the controversial "No to Euro" campaign, which featured a cinema ad in which the comedy actor Rik Mayall played Adolf Hitler. Propeller claims this is particularly significant as it proves that low-budget ads are just as capable of generating press coverage as their big-budget counterparts.
The only ads to make the chart that didn't feature celebrities were BT's Chameleon Phone execution from its AMV-produced Bringing People Together campaign, which came in joint sixth, and Delany Lund Knox Warren & Partners' ad for the high-street bank Halifax, which featured two members of staff - Howard and Angela - singing the song Something Stupid. This came in tenth.
Billy Conolly's appearance in the Lotto relaunch campaign by WCRS makes eighth place in the chart. This is followed by last year's Campaign Campaign of the Year - the ITV digital ads produced by Mother, which featured the comedian Johnny Vegas and Monkey.
The joint tenth most-written-about campaign was HHCL & Partners' "Slag of all snacks" for Pot Noodle, which was banned from television, only to reappear as a viral campaign.