Top 50 ads of the year: Asda, Disney+ and Amazon among best performing commercials

2022 saw a sharp increase in the popularity of Christmas-themed ads, while travel ads highlighting a return to normalcy post-pandemic proved to be a constructive emotional throughline.

The top 50 best performing UK ads of 2022 have been revealed, with work from Aldi, Samsung and Lego headlining the top 10.

Compiled using System 1’s ‘Test Your Ad’ platform which measures viewers’ second-by-second emotional responses to advertising and features a database of almost 25,000 commercials, and in partnership with ITV, ads were ranked on a scale of 1 to 5.9 stars.

Typically, just 1% of ads receive a top 5 score and this year saw every ad in the top 50 achieve over 5 stars for an overall average of 5.4 - a strong showing from advertisers. Interestingly, 21 of the top 50 commercials were centred around Christmas, compared to just two from the top 50 in 2021.

“This past year was an exceptional one for effectiveness, especially during the festive season,” said Jon Evans, Chief Customer Officer, System1. “We’re seeing more brands and agencies bring their best creative ideas forward, resulting in ads that deliver on long-term brand building.”

The Top 10 nation’s favourite ads were:

1. Asda – Have your Elf a Merry Christmas – 5.9-Stars

2. Disney+ – All these + more streaming this Christmas – 5.9-Stars

3. Amazon – Joy is Made – 5.9-Stars

4. Aldi – Christmas advert 2022 – 5.9-Stars

5. Waitrose – Food to Feel Good About – 5.9-Stars

6. M&S – Gifts that Give – 5.9-Stars

7. Samsung – Curious Cats – 5.8-Stars

8. Lindt – Christmas Time to Melt – 5.8-Stars

9. Lego – Build a Playful Holiday – 5.8-Stars

10. Nintendo – Nintendo Switch Lite – 5.7-Stars

In addition to Christmas, some popular themes which scored highly and cracked the top fifty regularly were emotional engagement, a return to normal, cultural references, moments of indulgence and putting on a show.

Emotional storytelling really went a long way to creating a successful advert, a throughline likely to succeed into 2023 as seen by their success at this year’s SuperBowl. And with the Covid-19 pandemic no longer restricting people’s day-to-day lives so significantly, a wave of holiday ads promoting a return to travel proved to be very popular among viewers.

As expected, cultural references and the use of iconic characters or actors were very effective. According to System1, this is because cultural references appeal to the right-brain and the broad-beam attention it brings to bear on the world. When ad campaigns are long-running and beloved enough they can serve as cultural references themselves.

Ads for confectionery items and other treats scored well when they leaned into the idea of indulgence, appealing to viewers’ sensors and the thought of a quick hit of pleasure. In a similar fashion, adverts that put on a show with song and dance appealed to viewers’ senses in a different way, celebrating emotion and human connection in a way that proved to be a strong strategy for a successful campaign.

The Top 10 category leaders were:

1. Asda – Retail

2. Disney+ – Streaming and TV

3. Samsung – Phones

4. Lindt – Confectionary and Chocolate

5. Nintendo – Video Gaming

6. Kellogg’s – Cereals

7. The National Lottery – Casinos and Lotteries

8. Go Türkiye – Travel and Holidays

9. McDonalds – Fast Food and Coffee Shops

10. Bonne Maman – Ice Cream and Desserts

Kate Waters, Director of Client Strategy & Planning at ITV said: “It’s encouraging to see more brands creating more emotionally engaging ads. But an interesting lesson from this year’s top 50 is the importance of not resting on your creative laurels - relative advantage versus your competitors is what really matters and that’s where brilliant creativity and craft can make the difference.

“We’re proud to have played a role in the development of multiple top-ranking ads from 2022. Marketers who recognise the value of ad testing and creative guidance better position their brands for profit gain and market share growth, especially during crucial periods like a recession.”

You can view the full list here.