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General Mills and Reese's top list of January’s 5 most effective ads in the US


By The Drum | Editorial

February 3, 2023 | 6 min read

From a fear of clowns to food porn, here are the most effective ads from past month according to System1 research.

Ocean Spray ad with clown

Ocean Spray isn't clowning around with its latest ad campaign / Ocean Spray

January is one of the quietest months in the advertising calendar, as consumers recover from their holiday indulgences and the world’s biggest brands prepare for the madness that is the Super Bowl. Despite a low volume of major campaigns launching in January, System1 has ranked the most effective (and edible) ads of the month – all of which come from food, beverage and grocery brands.

5. Wegmans: ‘Sit down to delicious’

Star rating: 3.9

Wegmans’ ad for its pre-prepared Gold Dish Meals falls into the ‘food porn’ subgenre of advertising – long, lingering, sensual close-ups of juicy, mouthwatering dishes. It’s a strategy that can prove extremely effective – here Wegmans is opting to show some of the preparation (stressing the hand-crafted nature of the dishes) and bolstering the ad with an explanatory voiceover for anyone unfamiliar with the range.

4. Kinder: ‘Smooth milk’

Star rating: 3.9

Like Wegmans, Kinder spends much of its brief running time explaining what the product actually is, which probably drags its emotional impact down slightly. Like a lot of confectionery ads, it’s playing the indulgence card, with Kinder Bueno allowing the ad’s heroine a moment of escape and daydreaming.

3. Ocean Spray: ‘Don’t clown’

Star rating: 4

The riskiest ad in this month’s selection is this bit of enjoyable slapstick from Ocean Spray in which a woman with a fear of clowns is inspired by the low-sugar cranberry drink to confront a clown and conquer her fear. It doesn’t go well. The point is that by achieving the remarkable feat of cramming so little sugar into its drink, Ocean Spray inspires consumers to do remarkable things, too. The ad is surprising and entertaining, though a minority of viewers in System1’s research were disgusted or angered by the anti-clown violence on display – but not enough to prevent a 4-star rating.

2. Reese’s: ‘To do list’

Star rating: 4.2

When it comes to distinctive assets, Reese’s has absolutely understood the assignment. For several years the brand’s ads have been saturated in its signature orange with its distinctive wrappers playing a starring role – and that’s before you get to the bitten-into peanut butter cups. It’s an aesthetic that’s uniquely Reese’s and allows the brand to concentrate on its equally distinctive tone of voice: an offhand, smarter-than-the-average-snack drawl putting the brand firmly on the side of anyone who wants an indulgent break with zero regrets. The result? Consistently strong scores.

1. General Mills: ‘Taste the shape’

Star rating: 4.3

A hint of purpose helps send General Mills slightly ahead of Reese’s in this month’s snacking showdown. The brand’s announcement that its limited heart-shaped Cheerios are returning is simple in content but backed up with potent branding firepower. The iconic Cheerios shape, Buzz the Bee, and the promise that this stuff is helping heart health are enough to secure a win this month for General Mills. The 4.3-star score is a total we expect to see comfortably beaten when Super Bowl LVII touches down on February 12.


System1 tests ads on measures that predict long-term brand growth (star rating) and short-term sales growth (spike rating) – each between 1 and 5 stars. These measures are validated using the independent IPA 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 5 stars. A 1-star ad will have zero effect on brand growth, while a 5-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.

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