What makes an ad resonate with its target audience? What are the factors that can help an ad leave a lasting impression in the minds of its viewers? System1 has developed a star rating system that factors in a broad set of data to answer these questions. Jon Evans, chief marketing officer at System1, told us which ads received the highest ratings last month – and why they stood out from the crowd.
System1 tests ads on measures that predict long-term brand growth (star rating) and short-term sales growth (spike rating) – each between one and five stars. These measures are validated using the independent IPA [the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising] database and also against real sales data at a category level.
The star rating captures the emotional response to an ad. Only 1% of ads on the system score five stars. A one-star ad will have zero effect on brand growth, while a five-star ad will have an exceptional impact (up to three points of market share gain, depending on investment). Often the work that receives the highest ratings comes as a surprise to everyone.
April’s top ads
5) Twisted Tea: Refreshing Taste
Star rating: 3.5
Saturated with Twisted Tea’s signature yellow color, this is one of the better-branded ads this month and captured an excellent short-term spike score. The content doesn’t stray too far from the alcoholic drinks norm – young people partying on a beach and having hard iced tea-induced fun. Smart use of an AC/DC song (T.N.T., what else?) gives the ad momentum throughout and sells the idea of a good time.
4) Planet Oat: Support Them
Star rating: 3.6
Earth Day saw a few sustainability-themed ads performing well, among them Planet Oat’s short spot promoting the ecological and wildlife charities it’s supporting. Planet Oat is a nondairy milk brand (not that you’d know from the ad) – one of many competing in an increasingly crowded market.
If the ad doesn’t say much about the category, it has an upbeat message and succeeds at tugging on viewers’ heartstrings – you can’t go wrong with a baby elephant. With low brand fluency, though, Planet Oat needs to combine that emotion with a strong sense of brand in the future.
3) Kia: Beachcomber
Star rating: 3.8
Kia shows off a novel beach clean-up method in this inspiring, sustainability-themed ad. A young man drives on the beach in his Kia, using an attachment hooked to the vehicle to rake up trash and debris. Then he retreats to a dune and watches sea turtles climb the newly-cleared beach.
Realistic? Probably not, but it’s an atmospheric, poetic ad that gets a strong score for the automotive category and works well with Kia’s more eco-friendly positioning. It could do with a little stronger branding, though.
2) Ripple: Plant-Based
Star rating: 4.0
April’s most surreal ad is surely this entertaining spot by plant-based milk brand Ripple. Competition in the plant-based milk space is aggressive as the relatively new category expands. So along the way, this ad makes sure to fire shots at almond-based rivals. But the messaging is balanced by the weird and wonderful sights of cows on vacation (because plant-based milk gives them free time, of course).
It’s a lovely spin on the idea of dairy-free products and one that helps to define the the challenger brand’s personality in a crowded space. Hopefully this won’t be the last we see of its bovine stars.
1) Cracker Jack: Cracker Jill x Normani: Take Me Out to the Ball Game
Star rating: 4.0
After 125 years, iconic snack brand Cracker Jack is introducing a new mascot, Cracker Jill – tapping into the brand’s sporting connection to celebrate women breaking down barriers in sports. As well as the introduction of Jill, we have R&B singer Normani giving a new rendition of Take Me Out To The Ball Game set against a montage of women athletes, both amateur and pro.
Change is always risky, and there’s a jump in both positive and negative emotion as soon as Jill appears. But by the end of the ad it’s clear the positive feeling is winning out, and Cracker Jill’s launch takes the top spot in the US ads we tested this month. It’s an ad that celebrates diversity in all its forms and does a fine job bringing a legendary brand up to date.