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,
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).
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 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?
ADWATCH OF THE DECADE: TOP 50 1990-1999
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