As other elements of the marketing mix take ever larger bites out
of advertising budgets, salience has become an increasingly critical
How many people remember those very expensive commercials? How hard -
and how competitively - are ad budgets working?
Because it answers those questions, Adwatch has never been so
well-scrutinised. Every week, using NOP research, we publish the 20
best-recalled new commercials screened in more than 75% of the
Adwatch of the Year 1997 is an advertising superleague derived from the
50 Adwatch tables published between December 5 1996 and November 27
1997. The first table shows a brand’s 1996 and 1997 positions, its
agency details, the recall percentage of its top-scoring commercial, the
date it appeared in Adwatch and the brand’s annual budget as recorded by
Register-MEAL. The second demonstrates overall memorability by totalling
a brand’s positive recall responses over the year.
In theory, the two tables tell very different stories. Best recall in a
single week can have nothing to do with budget and everything to do with
targeting and creativity. Last year, the Department of Transport/COI’s
Christmas drink-driving ad, by DMB&B, scored the second highest recall
in a week, with a budget of just pounds 2m.
This year, the massive media muscle of BT, which spent almost pounds
160m on advertising during the year, scored the highest single recall
for the second year running, but the success of Walkers Crisps and
Orange Tango in Table 1 does show that smaller spenders can deliver a
blow to the heavyweights when the creative is strong enough.
Walkers Crisps (BMP DDB) and Orange Tango (HHCL & Partners) put up
stunning performances to reach third and fourth place with spends only
fractionally above pounds 3m. M&C Saatchi worked wonders for Whiskas
Kitten Food, which billed only pounds 1.5m over the year, but managed to
hit the joint 17 slot alongside Tesco’s pounds 22.9m (and that’s
excluding the fees commanded by Prunella Scales and Jane Horrocks).
Other brands worth a mention in the value-for-money league are I Can’t
Believe It’s Not Butter (McCann-Erickson), Direct Line motor insurance
(Mortimer Whittaker O’Sullivan) Kleenex Ultra (FCB) and St Ivel Utterly
Every commercial in the table is a star performer but eight of them,
scoring 83% recall or above, deserve a closer look.
It’s good to talk - but Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO shows that it’s even
better to bark, quack and oink. Last year, the highest-scoring
commercial was Bob Hoskins talking to a duck and a pig, and this year’s
number one stars a boxer dog called Bobo.
It ran almost a year ago, promoting BT’s newly-national Ringback service
by showing a Bobo’s-eye view of his mistress trying to get through to
her boyfriend, who was permanently engaged.
When, thanks to Ringback, she finally gets through, he mistakes her for
someone else - and Bobo slinks off to avoid her ire.
Designed to convey the frustration of trying to reach an engaged number,
the commercial demonstrated how Ringback works as well as its
The film proved hugely popular, eclipsing even the EastEnders ad in the
After four weeks on air, it was one of BT’s best-remembered commercials
ever - and was brought back for a brief encore later in the year. In
Adwatch, however, its 94% score was 2% below last year’s Hoskins
In advertising terms, 1997 was an important year for Camelot. The
company spent pounds 10.6m airing a handful of commercials for the new
mid-week National Lottery draw. Here, it retains its number two slot
with the February commercial launching the ’Winsday’ concept.
The ’Winsday’ campaign used the usual Lottery format, with the giant
hand of good fortune and the ’It could be you’ theme. This film shows a
solitary man at the seaside who is chosen by the hand of good fortune
and whose shouts of ’It’s me, it’s me!’ bring him to the sniggering
attention of passers by.
Once Saatchi & Saatchi had established the ’Winsday’ theme, it moved the
campaign on to show people being picked by the giant hand during their
normal weekday pursuits. But although the launch commercial was the one
which did best in Adwatch, it, like BT, fell 2% short of the top Lottery
score in 1996.
Say what you will about ubiquity and the Spice Girls, but the Feisty
Five (with help from Gary Lineker and BMP DDB) have proved a triumph for
Walkers, with the ’nightclub’ Cheese & Chives commercial scoring
Lineker is now three years into the campaign, which shows no sign of
fatigue. In 1997, he shared the screen with Ulrika Jonsson as well as
with Ginger, Posh, Sporty, Baby and Scary. In this film, Lineker ignores
each Spice Girl except Mel B, who is holding a packet of Cheese &
As he swipes the pack from her, Lineker turns to camera and explains:
’This is what I want, what I really, really want’ - an endline so corny
that only one of the country’s best-loved sporting icons could get away
’Vote Orange’ went on air in April in the run-up to the General
Election, continuing the anarchic style HHCL & Partners created for the
brand in 1991 with the famous ’Slap’ commercial.
The election film showed Orange Tango making allegations against the
other Tango flavours, accusing Apple of sleaze, Blackcurrant of hot air
and Lemon of irrelevance. And, of course, we all believed them when they
insisted that any broader political overtones were unintentional.
This commercial is the 11th from HHCL & Partners, which has also
launched Apple, Lemon and Blackcurrant during its tenure of the brand.
Tango now claims to be bigger than Fanta, Lilt, Sunkist, Dr Pepper and
Sprite combined, a statistic which proves that outstanding creative work
can make a small budget - pounds 8m in total - go a very long way.
While zaniness is one recipe for getting to fourth place in the Adwatch
Hall of Fame, another is nostalgia and good honest value, mixed with a
pounds 24m ad spend. Asda’s 1996 pre-Christmas campaign featured four
commercials, each covering an aspect of seasonal spending.
The one which scored best in Adwatch was ’Party’, which featured the
store’s range of party food and drink, framed within the ’Heritage’ idea
stressing Asda’s Yorkshire farming origins.
The campaign continued the successful ’Permanently Low Prices’ theme
which Publicis established five years ago. In April, however, the
campaign changed to the current ’Isn’t it funny’ work; tune in this time
next year to discover whether Asda is still laughing.
Molly has had her critics since she took over from Harry 18 months ago,
but she’s a firm favourite with the public.
Her highest-scoring Adwatch performance came early in the year with a
commercial for Cyclon, Safeway’s own-label washing liquid. Bates
Dorland’s campaign features either service initiatives or price
initiatives. This was a price film continuing the ’Lightening the Load’
Since the agency created the campaign three years ago, it has made well
over a hundred commercials, all created by copywriter Jon Canning who
has worked on his own since his art director, Russell Waldron, died in a
road accident just as the first Molly work was going on air.
Molly appears alone in this film, but the agency has concluded that she
works better with a co-star, which is why little brother Joe came on the
scene this year. And, now that her ’voice’ - actress Lesley Sharp - has
achieved serious fame by playing the female lead in The Full Monty,
Molly could be in for a busy 1998.
The trouble with being the world’s biggest building society is that you
need the assent of 20 million people before you convert to a plc.
To galvanise this enormous audience into voting - preferably positively
- the Halifax ran seven ’Be a part of something big’ commercials over a
two-month period at the start of the year.
The Adwatch top-scorer was ’Fisherman’, which expressed the ’big’ theme
by featuring a fisherman’s tall tale and the line ’nothing is as big as
the Halifax vote’.
The only black and white commercial in the series, this Bates Dorland
film was a pastiche of an old movie and was primarily aimed at Halifax
members over the age of 30.
Its success in Adwatch was mirrored by success in the marketplace, where
the conversion was overwhelmingly approved by the eligible members.
Andrex’s move out of J Walter Thompson in autumn 1996 was controversial,
but FCB’s first work on the business raised the brand’s recall by 5% and
its league position by three places on last year.
The Andrex Puppy Anniversary Ad, on air in the spring, promoted an
on-pack toy puppy offer which would help raise money for Guide Dogs for
the Blind. It generated a surprisingly high 83% in Adwatch and, although
redemptions are still coming in, has so far raised pounds 270,000 for
Table 2 (right) was compiled from the year’s positive responses of the
1000 adults surveyed every week by NOP for Adwatch. Five hundred people
are asked about every commercial, which gives each brand an absolute
maximum of 25,000 responses over the course of a year.
Inevitably, the table tends to be budget-related, with brands more often
on air likely to get proportionately more responses. But, unless an
advertiser has a BT-sized budget (the pounds 158.6m represents a
staggering rise of pounds 70m on last year), a brand needs more to get
BT has two huge advantages: a budget that is the size of the next five
brands added together and a corporate name that brands all its
When that is maximised by stylish creative work, its top-of-the-league
position is not surprising - particularly as it topped the Adwatch chart
every single week during 1997.
Its score - almost 22,000 - is as good as any advertiser could hope for,
although the figures suggest that the number two brand, McDonald’s, is
getting better value for money by spending less than pounds 40m and
getting 15,000 responses.
As usual, the supermarkets spent heavily. Three of them reaped the
rewards by taking third, fourth and fifth place in the table, with Asda,
on the lowest budget of the three, beating the other two by quite a
Even though Safeway’s extensive use of ten-second commercials meant that
some of its ads were not researched, it is doubtful whether it could
have caught up with Asda. And, talking of supermarkets, where was Tesco?
Despite a spend of pounds 23m and the Scales/Horrocks partnership, it is
nowhere to be seen.
Half this year’s league consists of new entries, which means that there
has been a fall-out from last year. An unlucky few (Lottery Instants,
Head & Shoulders, VW Golf and Walkers Crisps) were just outside the
Other 1997 no-shows were the AA, Tetley Tea, Abbey National, Iceland,
Rover, Whiskas, Nescafe, Bird’s Eye Fish Fingers and two Kellogg’s
brands, Fruit ’n Fibre (which this year changed its name) and
The luckiest client is Cadbury, whose Creme Eggs proved the star of this
table thanks to new advertising, starring comedian Matt Lucas of
Shooting Stars fame. On a spend of pounds 2m through GGT, Creme Eggs
recorded just 24 fewer positive responses than the Peugeot 106 whose
budget was eight times as big.
Overall, Bates Dorland and Publicis were the top agencies, with three
campaigns each in the table. They were followed by Abbott Mead Vickers
BBDO, Leo Burnett, and Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper, which appeared twice.
There was no sign whatsoever of the creative strongholds of BMP, Bartle
Bogle Hegarty, HHCL, Lowe Howard-Spink or M&C Saatchi - and Mortimer
Whittaker O’Sullivan (Direct Line) was the only independent agency in
1997 belonged to the multinational networks, with Universal McCann and
Zenith emerging as the top media buyers. Any bets on how many brands in
next year’s league will be bought by the forthcoming Christine
Walker/M&C Saatchi venture?
BEST RECALL IN ANY SINGLE WEEK
1997 1996 Brand Agency Score) Issue Budget
(% date pounds
1 1 BT Abbott Mead
Vickers BBDO/ 94 23.01.97 158.6
2 2= National Lottery Saatchi & Saatchi/ 89 20.03.97 10.6
3 6= Walkers Crisps BMP DDB/ 86 04.09.97 3.1
4= - Orange Tango HHCL & Partners/ 84 15.05.97 3.0
4= 11= Asda Publicis/ 84 19.12.96 24.0
6= 9= Safeway Bates Dorland/ 83 09.01.97 27.3
6= - Halifax plc Bates Dorland/ 83 20.02.97 17.4
6= 11= Andrex FCB/ 83 12.06.97 9.3
John Ayling &
9= - I Can’t Believe McCann-Erickson/ 82 09.01.97 5.8
It’s Not Butter Universal McCann
9= 8 Nescafe McCann-Erickson/ 82 16.10.97 11.2
Gold Blend Universal McCann
11 6= McDonald’s Leo Burnett 81 05.06.97 39.7
12= - Peugeot 306 Euro RSCG Wnek
Gosper/ 80 12.06.97 13.5
12= - Goldfish TBWA Simons Palmer/ 80 30.10.97 10.0
12= 15= Oil of Ulay Saatchi & Saatchi/ 80 13.11.97 10.3
P & G Media
12= - Argos Ogilvy & Mather/ 80 19.12.96 12.8
16 12= Kellogg’s J Walter Thompson 79 15.05.97 11.3
17= - Whiskas M&C Saatchi/ 77 14.08.97 1.5
Kitten Food MediaVest
17= 7 Direct Line Mortimer Whittaker
O’Sullivan/ 77 17.04.97 5.4
Motor Insurance The Media Business
17= - Tesco Lowe Howard-Spink/ 77 26.06.97 22.9
Western Intl Media
20= - Sainsbury’s Abbott Mead Vickers
BBDO/New PHD 75 19.12.96 35.5
20= - Boots The
Chemist J Walter Thompson/ 75 19.12.96 36.2
20= - Kleenex Ultra FCB/ 75 20.03.97 4.2
John Ayling &
20= 4 Coca-Cola Wieden & Kennedy/ 75 08.05.97 34.6
20= - Yellow Pages Abbott Mead Vickers
BBDO/IDK 75 15.05.97 12.1
20= - St Ivel DMB&B/ 75 07.08.97 3.0
Utterly Butterly BMP Optimum
BEST RECALL OVER THE YEAR
1997 1996 Brand Agency Total Budget
recall pounds m
1 1 BT Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO/ 21,839 158.6
The Negotiation Centre
2 2 McDonald’s Leo Burnett 15,036 39.7
3 8 Asda Publicis/ 8,575 24.0
4 6 Sainsbury’s Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO/ 5,579 35.5
5 5 Safeway Bates Dorland/ 5,083 27.3
6 3 Coca-Cola Wieden & Kennedy/ 4,359 34.6
7 - Halifax plc Bates Dorland/ 3,915 17.4
8 23 Renault Clio Publicis/ 3,731 11.8
9 17 Specsavers In-house/ 3,604 14.7
10 - Peugeot 306 Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper/ 3,081 13.5
11 - Peugeot 106 Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper/ 3,022 16.1
12 9 Kellogg’s J Walter Thompson 3,020 11.3
13 - Cadbury’s GGT Advertising/ 2,998 2.0
Creme Eggs TMD Carat
14 - Andrex FCB/ 2,794 9.3
John Ayling & Associates
15 - Argos Ogilvy & Mather/ 2,701 12.8
16 - Diet Coke Publicis/ 2,559 8.1
17 26 Vision Express McCann-Erickson Bristol/ 2,556 6.0
18 21 Nescafe McCann-Erickson/ 2,506 11.2
Gold Blend Universal McCann
19 - Direct Line Mortimer Whittaker
O’Sullivan/ 2,453 5.7
Home Insurance The Media Business
20 - Oil of Ulay Saatchi & Saatchi/ 2,328 10.4
P & G Media
21 18 Daz Automatic Leo Burnett/ 2,318 8.1
P & G Media
22 - Woolworths Bates Dorland/ 2,299 20.1
23 - Goldfish TBWA Simons Palmer/ 2,175 10.0
Manning Gottlieb Media
24= - St Ivel DMB&B/ 2,127 3.0
Utterly Butterly BMP Optimum
24= 14 Pantene Pro-V Grey Advertising/ 2,127 27.5
P & G Media
BEST PERFORMING AGENCIES
Agency Frequency Position Brand
Publicis 3 3 Asda
8 Renault Clio
16 Diet Coke
Bates Dorland 3 5 Safeway
7 Halifax plc
Abbott Mead 2 1 BT
Vickers BBDO 4 Sainsbury’s
Leo Burnett 2 2 McDonald’s
21 Daz Automatic
Euro RSCG 2 10 Peugeot 306
Wnek Gosper 11 Peugeot 106
This article was first published on Marketing