MARKETING FOCUS: Adwatch of the year - In this year’s review of the major stars in the Adwatch charts, Gail Kemp finds out which companies, brands and ad campaigns were hits with the public

As other elements of the marketing mix take ever larger bites out of advertising budgets, salience has become an increasingly critical issue.

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

Butterly (DMB&B).

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

recall stakes.

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


National Lottery

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.

Walkers Crisps

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

with it.

Orange Tango

’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.

Halifax plc

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

the charity.

Commercial breakdown

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

itself remembered.

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.

Top agencies

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

the table.

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?


1997 1996 Brand             Agency           Score)    Issue      Budget

                                                 (%    date       pounds

                                            recall)                    m

1    1    BT                Abbott Mead

                            Vickers BBDO/        94    23.01.97   158.6

                            The Negotiation


2    2=   National Lottery  Saatchi & Saatchi/   89    20.03.97    10.6

                            Zenith Media

3    6=   Walkers Crisps    BMP DDB/             86    04.09.97     3.1


4=   -    Orange Tango      HHCL & Partners/     84    15.05.97     3.0

                            TMD Carat

4=   11=  Asda              Publicis/            84    19.12.96    24.0

                            TMD Carat

6=   9=   Safeway           Bates Dorland/       83    09.01.97    27.3

                            Zenith Media

6=   -    Halifax plc       Bates Dorland/       83    20.02.97    17.4

                            Zenith Media

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

                            Manning Gottlieb


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

                            The Network

16   12=  Kellogg’s         J Walter Thompson    79    15.05.97    11.3

          Corn Flakes

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

                            BMP Optimum

20=  -    Kleenex Ultra     FCB/                 75    20.03.97     4.2

                            John Ayling &


20=  4    Coca-Cola         Wieden & Kennedy/    75    08.05.97    34.6

                            Universal McCann

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


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

                           TMD Carat

4    6    Sainsbury’s      Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO/  5,579         35.5

                           New PHD

5    5    Safeway          Bates Dorland/             5,083         27.3

                           Zenith Media

6    3    Coca-Cola        Wieden & Kennedy/          4,359         34.6

                           Universal McCann

7    -    Halifax plc      Bates Dorland/             3,915         17.4

                           Zenith Media

8    23   Renault Clio     Publicis/                  3,731         11.8


9    17   Specsavers       In-house/                  3,604         14.7

                           CIA Medianetwork

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

          Corn Flakes

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

                           The Network

16   -    Diet Coke        Publicis/                  2,559          8.1

                           Universal McCann

17   26   Vision Express   McCann-Erickson Bristol/   2,556          6.0

                           Universal McCann

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

                           Zenith Media

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


Agency           Frequency    Position      Brand

Publicis         3             3            Asda

                               8            Renault Clio

                              16            Diet Coke

Bates Dorland    3             5            Safeway

                               7            Halifax plc

                              22            Woolworths

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


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