November is one of the most critical months in TV advertising, with brands deploying their Christmas campaigns. But there’s a lot more to it than just holiday ads. Here’s our regular dip into the Ad Ratings database, to look at some of the best and worst new (or returning) campaigns from November.
UK: Warburtons Crumpets
The highest scoring ad in the UK this month is three years old, a singing and dancing extravaganza guest-starring the Muppets, in aid of baker Warburtons’ range of giant crumpets. As is traditional, company head John Warburton takes a supporting role, but the much-loved Muppets are the stars. Nominally a Christmas ad, this is more like a classic piece of family light entertainment – just like last year’s 5-Star “Pride And Breadjudice”, starring comedian Peter Kay, was as much comedy sketch as ad. The commitment to entertainment is well rewarded with one of the year’s highest Ad Ratings scores.
The Pillsbury Doughboy, one of the longest-running brand mascots in US advertising, tangles with Santa in one of the brand’s 15-second holiday ads. Three of these hit 5-Stars this month, testimony to the simple but huge appeal of these homespun Christmas vignettes. It’s a consistency even Coke can’t match.
UK: TSB Local Pride
Only last month we were complaining that Britain’s banking brands had lost the art of emotional connection with consumers. TSB goes some way to rectifying that with a series of ads celebrating community charity, to tie in with their Pride of Britain sponsorship. The highest scoring, a 4-Star ad, compiles three miniature stories of local good deeds. It’s not the only financial brand trying to cast itself as a champion of local businesses and ordinary people this Christmas – Visa have a strong Christmas ad along similar lines.
‘Short and sweet’ is the formula for most US TV Christmas ads, with the kind of storytelling common in the UK kept to a minimum. Toyota are one exception this year, with a 90-second ad touching on what’s become quite a common Christmas theme – the homecoming soldier. Toyota find a sentimental, but highly effective, twist on the plot and claim a 4-Star success (higher than almost all our UK examples.)
UK: Red Bull
“Red Bull Gives You Wings” is one of the great ‘scenario’ Fluent Devices, with its unique animated style helping to build distinctiveness and instant recognition. But its recent ads haven’t quite hit the emotional spot, tending to land at 1- or 2-Stars, perhaps lacking the wit of earlier entries. It screened two Christmas ads – one about a hapless turkey who misses out on his Red Bull and comes to a bad end, and the other (a 3-Star success) involving Santa doing the flying job himself. There may be a bit of lift in the campaign yet.
US: Google Home
While November’s schedules are stuffed with Christmas ads, there are relatively few Thanksgiving ads on US TV. Most family-oriented commercials can do double-duty, of course, and with the big shopping season happening after Thanksgiving it’s not surprising brands focus on the later holiday. One exception this year was Google Home, who ran a string of ads starring a group of celebrities getting together for a Thanksgiving bash. Given the star power of Amy Poehler and others, they might have hoped to land at higher than 3-Stars (with some ads coming in well below). Perhaps the faux-naturalistic treatment stopped the comedy from shining.
From the 80s’ Gold Blend couple to the 10s Nespresso George Clooney ads, coffee advertising has often shone. Italian brand Lavazza’s 2-Star ad doesn’t stand out in that company – it illustrates the perils of a straightforward authenticity play, with nothing to offer in the way of creativity or entertainment beyond its simple statement of origins. This is often the case with low-scoring ads – they are plain and product-centric, hoping that provenance or heritage will create an emotional impact. Almost inevitably, it won’t.
Ford have had a rocky start to their post-WPP advertising life, with the “Built Ford Proud” strapline and campaign attached to a series of 2- and 1-Star ads. The gritty, much-hyped flagship ad starring Bryan Cranston ended up at 2-Stars, and this month so did the brand’s holiday campaign – beautifully shot, but ending up uninvolving. With rival brands taking greater advantage of Christmas opportunities, Ford still has a lot of brand building to do.
UK: CBD Oil
The emergent cannabis and cannabis derivatives market is hugely exciting to venture capitalists, but if the first CBD Oil ad on UK TV – for CBD OK – is anything to go by, it’s not thrilling for consumers. “CBD is OK”, intones the voiceover repeatedly, probably trying to reassure an audience who most likely have no idea what the product even is. Groundbreaking in a sense – but the only way is up.
US: Oculus VR
Virtual Reality headset maker Oculus ran its first TV ads in October, with their debut ad, “Open Your Eyes”, throwing everything visually appealing at the viewer – babies, animals, baby animals – and managing a respectable 3-Stars. Their November follow-up is a different story: an Oculus user enjoying a virtual romance in his bath is a bit too close to everyone’s worst fears about what VR users are actually likely to get up to with the tech. A resounding 1-Star, virtual or real.