Adwatch of the decade

- Ten years is an awfully long time in advertising. Gail Kemp reveals which brands have stayed on top Since 1987, Marketing's Adwatch has been a vital index for everyone concerned with advertising and marketing. At the turn of the year 2000, we have examined our annual leagues from 1990 to 1999 - reflecting more than 500 weekly tables - to compile Adwatch of the Decade.

Since 1987, Marketing’s Adwatch has been a vital index for everyone

concerned with advertising and marketing. At the turn of the year 2000,

we have examined our annual leagues from 1990 to 1999 - reflecting more

than 500 weekly tables - to compile Adwatch of the Decade.

The Top 20 Adwatch of the Year brands over those ten years have been

ranked according to their placing in each table. If a brand hit Adwatch

of the Year at number one, it would score 20; a brand coming in second

would score 19, and so on.

Not all the yearly tables used identical methodology; some older leagues

featured spontaneous awareness, while newer ones measured prompted

awareness. In years that featured both, we have used the recall over the

year table as our measure.

Adwatch of the Decade provides a fascinating study of the most memorable

advertising of the past ten years. They are brands which have invested

heavily in TV advertising, and have tended to stick with long-running,

consistent campaigns.

British Telecom

In 1990, J Walter Thompson’s Beattie campaign, starring Maureen Lipman,

had been a national favourite for several years. She was the matriarch

on the Golders Green omnibus - a vehicle for BT to explain its services

to the public until 1992. Most of the work went through Simons Palmer,

although some was handled by WCRS.

By 1994, AMV had the main domestic account and created the ’It’s good to

talk’ campaign starring Bob Hoskins, which was designed to persuade

people to spend more time on the phone.

In 1995, BDDH’s work for BT’s business customers featuring a small

company ’soap opera’ joined the domestic Hoskins campaigns, while

Saatchi & Saatchi made the corporate Stephen Hawking blockbuster.

By 1998, BT was stressing its service provision by showing people

returning to BT and by encouraging people to do more with

telecommunications. That was the start of the ’slice of life’

advertising which still forms the basis of AMV’s ET work.


McDonald’s is a case history of consistency. Not only has Leo Burnett

handled the brand since 1986, but the account has been run by the same

account director, David Kisilevsky, working closely with the same

marketing director, John Hawkes.

That relationship, together with McDonald’s long-term ’think global, act

local’ strategy, has helped the archetypal American brand to become part

of British culture. At the start of the 1990s, the advertising was

mostly short-term tactical activity until Burger King entered the


Humour came to the forefront of Burnett’s advertising, along with a much

stronger branding emphasis. As well as big, brand-enhancing commercials

(such as those using Alan Shearer), Leo Burnett now puts a much stronger

branding focus on every promotional campaign.


The Andrex puppies have proved an inspired, yet enduring presence for 27

years. J Walter Thompson created the original campaign and held the

account until 1996 when, after Kimberly-Clark acquired the brand, it

moved to FCB. Earlier this year, it moved back to JWT. Andrex’s

advertising strategy has remained the same ever since the puppy first

hit the screens and has continued to use the ’soft, strong and long’



Recently voted ’Brand of the century’ by Marketing, Coca-Cola has always

been deeply committed to international television advertising.

In 1990, the account was handled globally by the Interpublic group,

which had just changed the slogan to ’You can’t beat the feeling’. In

the UK, all the advertising ran through McCann-Erickson.

In 1995, however, Coca-Cola took a radical decision to diminish the role

of global blockbusters in favour of dozens of tightly-targeted

commercials through a variety of agencies. The 1995 ’Always’ campaign,

created by Creative Artists Agency, was a turning point.

The UK work is generally created by Publicis (mainstream local TV

campaigns), Wieden & Kennedy (work promoting Coca-Cola’s football

sponsorship) and the US-based The Edge (big global campaigns).

Gold Blend

Nescafe Gold Blend, the UK’s leading premium instant coffee brand, began

the 1990s in terrific advertising shape. McCann-Erickson’s ’Love over

gold’ campaign, starring Sharon Maughan and Tony Head, had pioneered the

’soap opera’ style of TV advertising three years earlier. Each new

commercial was talked about and promoted as heavily as the TV shows they


By 1993, sales had risen 40% during the six-year campaign and the famous

couple made their last appearance.

A second Gold Blend soap opera, with a younger couple, took over until

last year, when McCanns moved away from the soap genre in favour of

one-off romantic commercials.


In recent years, Asda has outshone the advertising awareness of its

supermarket rivals with its distinctive jingle and ’pocket-tap’

commercials. This is another story of long-term commitment from an

advertiser to one agency, Publicis, and to consistent brand-building


In 1990, Publicis’ ’It Asda be Asda’ campaign was adapted for the

store’s silver jubilee. In 1992, then marketing director Allan Leighton

revived the ’Asda price’ theme and the 1970s pocket-tap image with

commercials emphasising quality and value.

This year’s ’Rollback prices’ theme has proved a winner, and fits in

neatly with the American, price-focused Wal-Mart, which now owns



Sainsbury’s advertising has been inconsistent during the 1990s. AMV,

whose colour press campaigns had earlier established Sainsbury’s as a

byword for quality, began the decade by winning the television work from

Saatchi & Saatchi. AMV’s 1991 ’Recipe’ campaign was classily shot, using

a raft of celebrities and the ’Where good food costs less’ line.

The supermarket chain began a bewildered attempt at ’catch up’ with a

series of different campaigns. Last year’s embarrassing John Cleese ads

proved the final straw. The ’Value to shout about’ campaign was hated by

Sainsbury’s staff and customers. In April this year, Sainsbury’s moved

its TV advertising to M&C Saatchi.


Nescafe has remained with McCann-Erickson for decades. By the early

1990s, its famous ’celebrity bean-shaking’ commercials had established

it as brand leader but looked dangerously dated.

In 1993, McCanns dropped the celebrities and the ’bean-shake’ but

maintained the ’best beans, best taste’ strategy. A series of different

commercials followed, the best-recalled featuring an unhappy woman

parking her car at the top of a cliff and using the car’s

cigarette-lighter to make a comforting cup of Nescafe.

In 1997, news of a Maxwell House relaunch prompted the agency and client

into a campaign that urged ’Better make sure it’s Nescafe’.

It launched the ’Open up’ global branding campaign through Publicis last

year. In the autumn, McCanns finally came up with UK creative work.

Denise van Outen and Ian Wright launched the campaign, starring as

themselves in mini-dramas.


Bates UK, the agency whose ’Harry and Molly’ campaign put Safeway at

number nine in Adwatch of the Decade, won the store’s print advertising

in January 1990. Ogilvy & Mather had retained the TV work, but Bates

soon snatched that as well to become the sole Safeway agency.

Before 1994, its advertising was unremarkable; but that autumn, the

agency came up with two-year-old Harry Robinson, voiced by Martin

Clunes, the toddler chosen to stress Safeway’s family-friendly focus

with the ’Lightening the load’ theme.

Two years later, Molly joined Harry and then became the campaign’s solo

star. But in 1998, the campaign was unexpectedly threatened by the ad

industry’s row with Equity, whose members had done such sterling

voiceovers for Safeway. Bates UK was forced to drop Harry and Molly and

to use non-Equity members such as Cilla Black and Jeremy Clarkson.

This year, the campaign evolved into a price-stressing message.


The campaign which made Ford cars joint tenth in Adwatch of the Decade

was the ’Everything we do is driven by you’ work, which broke in


The corporate campaign, like all Ford’s advertising at that time, was

created by Ogilvy & Mather, and supported a string of car launches,

including Ford’s first ever global launch, the Mondeo, in 1993. In that

year, with a record pounds 43m ad budget, Ford was a constant feature in

the weekly Adwatch table.

Tetley Tea

Tetley has used the Teafolk for 25 years and remained loyal to agency

D’Arcy. Gaffer, Sidney et al began life in the 1970s, popularising the

then unpopular teabag by explaining how the ’flavour floods out’. The

Teafolk launched round teabags in 1990 with their customary northern


But in 1995, the strategy changed to emphasise the emotional and

psychological benefits of tea-drinking.

Outside the top ten

Several entrants in the second half of the top 20 earned their Adwatch

prominence in the early 1990s (such as GGK’s ’Heat Electric’ campaign,

featuring Nick Park ’claymation’ animals, and WCRS’s ’I bet he

drinks ...’ work for Carling Black Label).

Renault’s presence is largely due to Publicis’s ’Nicole et Papa’ work on

the Clio, while British Gas, at joint 19, has managed to span two

different advertising eras in its campaigns through BMP DDB.

Walkers Crisps has managed an apparently seamless transition from BMP,

which created the famous Gary Lineker campaign, into AMV, which has

continued the Mr-Nice-turns-Mr-Nasty theme to illustrate the

irresistibility of the product.

The 14th best-recalled ad of the decade is JWT’s work for Kellogg’s Corn

Flakes, but it owes its place to the mid-90s ’Have you forgotten how

good they taste?’ campaign.

Persil’s place is the result of decades of consistent advertising based

on people and their clothes, rather than the ’scientific’ route taken by

rival P&G. Yet in the mid-1990s, the brand was virtually annihilated by

Persil Power. It lost brand leadership overnight and did not manage to

regain credibility or leadership until the recent launch of Persil


It is anyone’s guess where these brands will be in ten years’ time -

after all, a year is just as long a time in advertising as it is in


Just ask Jeffrey Archer, star of 1998’s top-scoring commercial promoting

BT long-distance calls. Any bets on how many campaigns he’ll be signed

up for next year?


1     BT                               10       180                90-99

2     McDonald’s                        8       122            90, 93-99

3     Andrex                            8       110     90, 92-95, 97-99

4     Coca-Cola                         6        81            90, 95-99

5     Nescafe Gold Blend                5        71            90-93, 97

6     Asda                              4        65                96-99

7     Sainsbury’s                       5        63                95-99

8     Nescafe                           5        53            90-93, 98

9     Safeway                           4        52                95-98

10=   Ford cars                         5        51                91-95

10=   Tetley tea                        5        51            90, 93-96

12    Electricity                       3        49                90-92

13    Walkers Crisps                    4        45       95, 96, 98, 99

14    Kellogg’s Corn Flakes             5        42                93-97

15=   Renault                           3        41           91, 94, 97

15=   Carling Black Label               4        41                90-93

17    Persil                            3        40           91, 92, 94

18    National Lottery                  4        37       95, 96, 98, 99

19=   British Gas                       4        36            92-94, 99

19=   PG Tips                           3        36                92-94

21    Ariel                             3        34           91, 92, 94

22    Specsavers                        4        32                96-99

23    Iceland                           4        28       95, 96, 98, 99

24    Tesco                             3        27           95, 98, 99

25    Somerfield                        2        26               98, 99

26    Peugeot                           2        23               91, 97

27    Head & Shoulders                  2        22               95, 96

28    Burger King                       3        21           95, 98, 99

29=   Guinness                          2        20               91, 92

29=   Water Authorities                 1        20                   90

31    Benetton                          1        19                   92

32=   B&Q                               1        18                   99

32=   Nicotinell                        1        18                   93

32=   Daz                               4        18       91, 92, 95, 96

35=   Hamlet                            2        17               90, 92

35=   Jif Lemon                         1        17                   91

35=   Tango                             2        17               92, 95

35=   SkyDigital                        1        17                   99

39=   TV Quick                          1        16                   91

39=   Oil of Ulay/Olay                  2        16               97, 98

41    Vidal Sassoon                     1        15                   93

42=   AIDS awareness                    1        14                   90

42=   Halifax                           1        14                   97

42=   Woolworths                        1        14                   98

42=   AA                                1        14                   96

46=   Milk                              2        13               91, 92

46=   TSB                               1        13                   90

48=   Direct Line                       3        13           94, 95, 97

49    Remington                         1        12                   90

50=   Bradford & Bingley                1        11                   93

50=   One 2 One                         1        11                   99


Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now


Lynx tells men not to leave love to fate
HBO captures awkwardness of watching sex scenes with parents
Primark to open first US stores with Boston chosen as flagship location
Marketing spend on the up but a reality check is needed before celebrating
Top 10 ads of the week: Jackpotjoy and BT Broadband fend off Kevin Bacon
Lidl beats Tesco to 10m Facebook fans
Center Parcs ad banned for encouraging parents to take kids out of school
Coca-Cola, Cadbury and Amazon named top brands for targeting youth market
Leaked document shows Nokia to be rebranded as Microsoft Mobile
Nike lays-off hardware staff in move that casts doubt on future of FuelBand
Greenpeace says save the bees or humans will die
What brands need to know about changes to VAT and online downloads in 2015
Jimmy Savile victims urged to claim compensation in new ad campaign
UKIP launches biggest  ad campaign and stirs up 'racist' accusations
Apple boss Tim Cook provides voiceover on ad touting firm's renewed green commitments
John Lewis walks consumers through its history to celebrate 150 years of business
Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers
Ex-M&S marketing chief Steven Sharp consulting at WPP
Wolff Olins reveals new CEO after Apple poaches Karl Heiselman
Glasgow offers £30,000 prize to best digital idea for 2014 Commonwealth Games
Google's revenues surge but shares drop as it grapples with transition to mobile
Facebook beats Twitter to most 'marketing friendly' social media site crown, says DMA
Fableists believe children like Finn should be outdoors enjoying life
Homebase, Baileys and Camelot join the line-up at Media360
MasterCard renews Rugby World Cup sponsorship to push cashless message