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The end of the year in the UK and US is dominated by Christmas ads – which we’ve already given plenty of coverage to. But it isn’t all holiday fare – while it’s a quieter time for new campaigns, the Ad Ratings database still contains hundreds of new ads. Here are ten of the most interesting.

4-STARS: RSPB (UK)

The season of giving is also the season of charity ads. But there’s a problem – a lot of the Christmas appeals are action-oriented not brand-oriented – they lean strongly on raw negative emotion to galvanise people into anger, fear and sadness and make them feel guilty. It doesn’t have to be this way. Charity ads can also showcase positive, community-building appeals and initiatives with an optimistic tone – like this 4-Star British effort for the RSPB and their campaign to get more people spotting and feeding birds.

3-STARS: BRITISH HEART FOUNDATION (UK)

Another strong charity effort comes from the British Heart Foundation, a 3-Star ad presenting their annual dechox event – encouraging people to give up chocolate in February. Previous years have seen the BHF use personal testimonies to camera, an approach which is high on authenticity but low on imagination. This year’s spot, with holidaymaking chocolate characters being packed away, is a big improvement, and deserves its 3-Star rating (high for a charity spot).

3-STARS:  MASTERCARD (US)

MasterCard are in the news this week with their decision to drop the lettering from their logo – a bold statement of faith in their main distinctive asset. For now, the old logo is still on display in their new ads, which are also a callback to their most famous Fluent Device campaign. “Start something Priceless”, runs the slogan to their 3-Star spot about a new Dad with a baby sling finding contactless payment easier. Relatable stuff, despite the heavy product focus.

3-STARS: GOOGLE (UK)

Sometimes all you need is a flossing granny. Google have made higher-profile commercials than their 9-second “How To Floss Dance” ad but at a high 3-Stars this is one of their more emotionally effective. It’s a brand-building ad: a brief, efficient, and fun reminder of Google’s core strength – they get you what you’re looking for, even in an era of snackable mobile video content (and floss dancing).

3-STARS: GARMIN (US)

December being the month of sales, there are a lot of very short, product-based ads around. Most take a predictable route – a product shot and voiceover – and get a predictable result (1-Star). Some show a bit more imagination to stand out. Garmin’s is a good example – a smiling face, a bit of camera trickery and a short burst of music to deliver the message that this watch also plays tunes. It’s not complex – and with 15 seconds to play with, how could it be? – but it has enough fun to push itself into 3-Star territory.

2-STARS: CARLSBERG (UK)

Stylistically reminiscent of the classic Rutger Hauer Guinness ads, Carlsberg’s winter campaign tries to put a fresh spin on the lager brand’s Danish heritage, linking it to the concept of “Hygge” or wintry cosiness. Hygge was everywhere last year and perhaps Carlsberg feels like a bandwagon jumper. Or perhaps the ad’s coolly minimalist tone doesn’t quite match the promises of cosy companionship the voiceover makes. Either way, the execution only ends up as a 2-Star ad, even with a dog involved.

2-STARS: SEAT (UK)

Seat’s marketers have got the memo that polarisation is cool – from its blues-rock soundtrack to its equally heavy messaging, this ad gamely tries to present a car brand as part of an artisanal counter-culture. Viewers aren’t necessarily feeling it: the ad scraped into 2-Star territory. It’s long and lavish but also rather flat – more a filmed version of a strategy memo than anything that connects emotionally with consumers.

2-STARS: SWIFFER (US)

One of the sustained campaigns to hit screens last month was P&G’s Swiffer brand’s “Cleaning Confessions” series. A set of straight-to-camera vignettes in which ordinary people admit their cleaning sins – all redeemable via Swiffer – the ads end up solidly in the 2-Star range, likely to drive only modest growth. It illustrates the problem with apparently relatable, authentic content: it’s quite boring.

1-STAR: INTUIT (US)

Intuit Quickbooks’ adoption of Danny DeVito as brand ambassador is a big hire for the personal accountancy software firm as they look to appeal to entrepreneurs and small businesses. Does their “Backing You” campaign use him well? DeVito is as engaging as ever, but the campaign shows the peril of over-editing ads. The 30-second spot with DeVito encouraging a dog grooming business owner scores a high 2-Stars. But the 15-second edit cuts most of DeVito’s laugh lines in favour of product explanations, and ends up with only 1-Star. It’s an example of shorter ads being a false economy – a 1-Star ad has no potential to drive growth. If you’re going to invest in a high-profile, funny celebrity spokesperson, you need to let them shine.

That’s it for this month – happy new year, ad watchers! For results of every new ad that airs in over 100 major categories, sign up to Ad Ratings. For consultancy, copy testing and creative guidance, get in touch with our ad testing team.

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