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TV Advertising Gold
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TV Advertising Gold

After one of the most memorable sporting years for Great Britain in living memory, which brands have emulated our winning athletes to take TV advertising gold?

Nielsen, the official market research services provider to London 2012, has identified this year’s gold medal winners in TV advertising across a host of FMCG categories.  At Nielsen, we track and evaluate every national TV advert and are able to help brands understand how the audience responds to advertising in real time, in the real-world environment.  Since the 2010 launch of our UK advertising effectiveness solution, TV Brand Effect, we have conducted more than five million surveys providing us with key insights into what makes an ad resonate with an audience and stand out from the pack.   

For The Grocer/Nielsen Top Campaigns of the Year, we have used two of our five key metrics: how memorable the advert itself was (general recall) and how successfully the brand in the ad was remembered (brand recall).

The winning ad in each category was chosen based on meeting certain criteria.  All ads that first aired on TV in the 12 months to October 2012 were measured.  Of these, the ads that had a ‘general recall’ score above average, relative to the overall grocery sector, went through for consideration.  Then, of these, the advert with the highest ‘brand recall’ was the winner within its category.

Some categories did not produce any particularly memorable ads, with none meeting the full criteria.  In these circumstances, we lowered the general recall threshold to choose the strongest advert within that category.

Although each successful ad was unique in its execution, we can observe some commonalities across the different category winners. 

Many of the adverts contained recurring characters and themes, adding a sense of familiarity to both the storyline and the brand being advertised, and an instant hook to aid memorability.   The insurance category may have Aleksandr Orlov, Churchill and Gio Compario – instantly recognisable as three of the biggest characters in the advertising world – but the FMCG sector has a few stars of its own.  The Green Giant, the original Andrex puppies and Fosters’ Brad and Dan have all appeared in successful campaigns this year (and last) and have demonstrated the positive impact of a brand icon.   In fact, having a recognisable brand icon delivers, on average, a 15% boost to brand recognition; look no further than Clarence, the Bird’s Eye Bear – a winner in 2011 and a two-time winner in 2012.

Brands with universal appeal – such as Heinz, Oreos and Kleenex – all made children the focal point of their campaigns with great success.  But using children in ads doesn’t necessarily provide an instant draw.  This year, more than 100 FMCG brands incorporated children into their TV ads, and, in general, they performed no differently to ads without kids.   But in the ads of the three brands just mentioned, the innocence of the children, and the special on-screen relationship with their parents, provided a platform for success for these specific advertisers. 

Relatable and relevant celebrities can also be effectively employed to endorse products.   This year, Jennifer Saunders and Vernon Kay achieved dairy-sector success with Philadelphia and Flora respectively, while George Clooney strengthened his relationship with Nespresso coffee.   

Overall though, fewer FMCG brands used familiar faces in their 2012 TV advertising, than in 2011.  And in general, celebrity-driven TV spots provide no boost to either an ad’s memorability or its brand recall in the grocery sector.  But add a dash of humour to your celeb ad, and memorability increases by 48% and brand association by 37%.  People generally respond better to grocery ads featuring celebs if they’re funny.

There are always exceptions though.  Some ads this year featuring an Olympic theme, or boasting official Olympic sponsor status – such as P&G’s Gillette and Head & Shoulders ads using elite celeb sports stars Roger Federer and Michael Phelps – also performed well. 

But it remains to be seen whether the new stars of London 2012 will be the face of brands in 2013.  Olympic association this year was no guarantee of success.  On average, among the brands that linked their creative to an Olympic theme, memorability and brand recall were only on a par with FMCG averages. 

As ever, first and foremost, creative quality wins out.

Although various creative similarities can be observed across groups of winners, all the ads that resonated with viewers in terms of both memorability and branding had something special that made them stand out from the cluttered TV advertising landscape and that’s why they crossed the finish line first as the best ads of 2012.