Picture: 123RF/marcociannarel
Picture: 123RF/marcociannarel

An advertising idea that is almost 30 years old has made a big comeback in the latest Kantar best-liked television commercials survey.

In 1991 viewers were captivated by a little boy whose toy car was magically powered by Sasol fuel, with the payoff line "Glug-Glug". Decades later a reworked version of the concept tops the list in the second quarter of this year.

"Brands that take advantage of historical brand assets and cues are placed favourably within consumers’ minds," says Kantar. "Ads that are emotionally engaging and build memorable and lasting impressions are more effective … engaging advertising can seed ideas, associations and feelings that are triggered during the purchase process, even long after the ad was last seen.

"But whatever the format used, it is essential for the ad to be harnessed to the brand."

One creative director cautions brands not to dust off old ideas and re-present them without meaningful research: "In Sasol’s case the idea was iconic, has stood the test of time and tapped into human emotion. One has to weigh risk carefully before heading down that path."

The Best-Liked Ads list celebrates SA’s favourite TV commercials and are ads that have been rated as the best-liked by the SA audience, who Kantar says are the most important critics — the people who ultimately choose to buy your brand or not.

So is there a secret to finding that important consumer connection?

The agency says clients need to consider two critical pillars. First, is the brand salient? "Can consumers recall your brand among not only your category but the multiple messages that they are faced with daily? Then, once we crack saliency, we would challenge the brand’s unique meaning for the people it serves."

Kantar says the ads South Africans have chosen as their favourite for Q1 and Q2 demonstrate expertise in these two areas.

"In first place for Q1 we see the hilarious Heineken beer ‘Unmissable’ advert which plays on a strong human truth many of us have experienced — it’s when you’re not looking that your team will score a goal!

"The distinctive creative style as well as brand placement throughout the advert makes this copy unique to Heineken."

Kantar also says emotional meaningful difference often comes from dramatising a brand’s purpose — what the brand stands for, its point of view and its values.

"It’s wonderful to see a sprinkling of purpose-driven adverts from Nike, McDonald’s and Omo appearing in the two lists, demonstrating the brands’ commitments to long-term brand building vs short-term sales. Ads that deliver an explicit message won’t benefit brands to the same degree as an ad focused on building impressions."

Another core lesson from the survey is that when brands need to reinforce functional benefits, it’s better to up the creative quotient.

Says Kantar: "In general, show, don’t tell. The Samsung PowerShare ad (ninth place Q2) is a classic example. People tend not to remember explicit messages without lots of repetition, but a creative demonstration will help improve memorability.

"We aren’t advocating dumping the message in ads altogether; there will be situations, such as product launches, where specific product messages will be beneficial, but in the majority of cases they may be a hindrance rather than a help."