Review of the year 2010: Adwatch of the year 2010

The recession maintained its grip on advertising trends this year, as retailers continued to dominate TV viewers' recall with consistent, high-profile campaigns.

As Britain sails into uncharted, post-Comprehensive Spending Review waters, it is not just the public keeping a watchful eye on their purse strings. With brands under unprecedented pressure, marketers need the maximum value from every advertising pound - just one reason why Marketing's weekly Adwatch remains essential reading.

Adwatch of the Year 2010 aggregates all the Adwatch tables from November 2009 to October 2010. The first table reveals which 20 brands have performed best in Adwatch across the year; the second the ads that scored highest on a week-by-week basis.

Not surprisingly, retailers dominate and the supermarkets contesting the top three spots remain unchanged from 2009. Tesco scooped top honours with its Fay Ripley/Mark Addy partnership, forcing Asda into second place and Morrisons into third.

Tesco's senior marketing manager for advertising and publishing, Abi Robins, acknowledges that the celebrity route has its dangers, but explains: 'We weren't looking for celebrity endorsement, but for really good actors who could become long-standing characters for Tesco.'

Whatever the thinking behind the strategy, it has returned Tesco to pole position in Adwatch for the first time since 2006. With footballer Frank Lampard making a summer appearance, and Amanda Holden signed up for Christmas, the ad break looks set to provide ongoing employment for credit-crunched celebs in 2011.

Conversely, Morrisons, has ditched celebrities (despite the Richard Hammond spot it ran last Christmas proving the best-recalled ad of the year) in favour of 'inquisitive children'. James Pool, managing director of the supermarket's ad agency, DLKW Lowe, explains: 'We wanted to stress what makes Morrisons different - its people and the food they prepare in store. Morrisons has a real connection with fresh food, right down the chain, and the "inquisitive kids" have helped us demonstrate this while building on the successful "Let's grow" schools project.'

Down one place on 2009, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO's Sainsbury's work with Jamie Oliver continues to generate strong cut-through (the spring 'Taste' commercial was the third-best-recalled ad of the year).

While Sainsbury's, like its rivals, continues with ads that balance quality and value messages, a focus away from the latter has triumphed for Argos, which snared a number-four slot - its best ranking to date.

CHI & Partners developed a fresh strategy for the retailer, injecting more warmth and focusing on a service message, with the 'Find it, get it, Argos it' campaign. This 'smart solutions' approach has succeeded in broadening the retailer's appeal to more-affluent customers.

Marks & Spencer is back in the top 10 (thanks largely to its Caroline Quentin ads) after a disappointing performance last year. Newcastle creative agency Robson Brown also deserves special mention: its work for Dreams has resulted in an Adwatch of the Year top 10 position. Despite this, the agency is repitching for the business.

It was a good year for regional outfits, in general, with The Co-operative and DFS benefiting from memorable work from their northern agencies. In fact, DFS - up eight places - was 2010's biggest Adwatch winner, while Kellogg became the biggest loser, having dropped nine places.

Sky (on a vastly increased budget) was the only non-retailer to make the top 10, while Confused.com, despite living up to its name with a muddled advertising year, clung on to the number-11 slot and outperformed rival price-comparison sites.

In our second table, however, Aleksandr Orlov remains top of the price-comparison pile, with his joint fourth place thrashing Gocompare.com's Gio Compario and Moneysupermarket.com's Omid Djalili. There is one notable absence, however - Churchill the dog. For the first year since 2003, he does not appear in either table.

This brings us on to the curious synergy between the Adwatch of the Year and Marketing's Irritating Ads table (to be published in January), Foxy Bingo could easily inherit the Churchillian mantle and become the star of both. For the second year running, Foxy - on a minuscule budget but bolstered by the brand's sponsorship of ITV's Jeremy Kyle Show - emerged as the year's best-value TV advertising. In tough economic times, is there a lesson there for marketers?