Valentine’s Day dominates UK’s 10 most liked ads in February, finds System1

The most-liked UK TV ads in February

Ad ranking database System1 has shared its highest-ranked UK February TV ads.

Jon Evans, chief marketing officer at System1, explains how the ad industry’s darlings aren’t always the most effective work in the eyes of the Great British public.

Methodology

System1 tests ads on measures that predict long-term brand growth (star rating) and short-term sales growth (spike rating) – each between 1 and 5 stars. This is then validated using the independent IPA database and sales data.

The star rating captures the emotional response to an ad – viewers are asked what they felt about it and how strongly. Evans talks us through the top 10 performing ads in the UK in February below.

February’s top ads

10) O2: Roam Freely

Star rating: 3.3

A frenetic stop-motion ad with robot mascot Bubl at the center as he’s whirled through a series of European snapshots. It’s a very rhythmic, left-brained experience but also a good showcase for Bubl himself, as he’s the fixed point in the whirl of images. The ad’s rewarded with a decent 3.3-star score and a peak of happiness for the actual message behind it – O2 is the only network not imposing EU roaming charges.

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9) McDonald’s: This is MyMcDonald’s

Star rating: 3.5

A functional ad with a single message – download our app to save time and money. The execution gets the simple things right, with a vibrant 00s soundtrack, lots of shots of happy families and a demonstration of what to do and why. These kinds of direct, product-oriented ads often score low because they don’t make the effort to create a positive feeling alongside their message. But McDonald’s gets that part right.

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8) Virgin Media: We’re better, connected

Star rating: 3.5

One of the few ads this month to use negative emotion to boost engagement, Virgin’s newest ‘We’re Better Connected’ ad tells the story of Aamira, a young woman skater whose fall at her local skate park leads to her befriending a local group. The ad ends with Aamira back on her board and getting cheered on. The ad pulls off its own trick – with the momentum from creating sadness leading to a strong peak in happiness at the end. For a telecoms ad 3.5 stars is good, and this also does exceptionally well on short-term and brand fluency measures.

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7) Aldi

Star rating: 3.6

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This Valentine’s Day ad in the top 10 is a cheerful, upbeat spot from Aldi which – like the other high-scoring V-Day spots – doesn’t take the event too seriously. Yes, there’s prosecco, steak and flowers, but there’s also an 18-inch combi drill on sale. It’s a good tactic for defusing any negative feelings among those who hate the occasion while still promoting offers. The ad sticks with Aldi’s friendly and funny brand voice, and it gets a solid positive response.

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6) Baileys

Star rating: 3.7

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This ad has the successful ‘Don’t Mind If I Baileys’ formula compressed into a 10-second burst. There are the usual ingredients – resourceful women, inspired recipes and a delicious treat at the end – but when an ad is this short, it’s more about vibe than story. Even so, it works, and scores a good 3.8 stars on the Test Your Ad platform, with exceptional short-term and brand fluency metrics.

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5) M&S: This is the M&S Valentine’s Dine In Deal

Star rating: 3.8

Another Valentine’s Day food ad, and a familiar approach from M&S, which pioneered the ‘food porn’ style of advertising and still does it better than anyone – if our Test Your Ad scores are any guide. This particular ad is a little more knowing than usual thanks to Dawn French’s humorous narration – the jokes landed well with the audience, though. And it fits the food’s tongue-in-cheek approach.

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4) BBC: The BBC Is Something That Belongs To All Of Us

Star rating: 3.8

The BBC doesn’t show ads, but it does occasionally make them – short films that promote particular services or (as here) its existence in general. With the Beeb under constant political pressure, it’s a smart move to make this a mash-up style ad showing off the sheer range of shows, personalities and assets the BBC owns, from Killing Eve to Alan Partridge. For the most part, the response is strongly positive, with rising happiness at the end. This could easily have seemed self-indulgent, but ends up being a video that both celebrates and makes the case for the BBC.

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3) Adidas: I’MPOSSIBLE

Star rating: 4

Brands have started to take disability representation in ads more seriously, and it’s good to see Adidas give the spotlight to Ellie Goldstein, a model and dancer who also has Down syndrome. The ad, with Ellie telling her story in her own voice, is positive and inspiring, and not just to disabled viewers – a strong 4-star score proves her story has wide appeal too and shows there’s no downside to fuller inclusion of disabled people in ads.

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2) Tesco: Tesco Finest Dinner for Two

Star rating: 4.5

Tesco’s Valentine’s Day ad gets one of the highest scores yet for its popular and long-running Food Love Stories campaign. Unlike most ads in the series, the emphasis is on storytelling, not recipes, with a no-nonsense daughter making sure her single dad doesn’t mess up his date night. Good jokes and a terrific performance by the child actor mean there’s a rising happiness level all the way through – a strong sign of a very well-crafted ad.

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1) Fairy Max Power: Upside Down

Star rating: 4.7

We’re a long way – thankfully – from ‘hands that do dishes can be soft as your skin.’ This ad has ease and convenience to the fore, with the Fairy baby surfing through a sea of grime in an excellent use of a brand asset. Diana Ross’s Upside Down is not the subtlest way to convey the product benefit – the bottle sits upside down for easier squeezing. But it makes for a great, attention-grabbing soundtrack, and anyone who’s precariously balanced a fairy liquid bottle on its end to get the last drops will relate.

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