Marketers vs Consumers: 3 Major Ads Put to the Test

We all know art can be subjective. While critics applaud a piece of work, the general public might be left wondering what all the fuss is about (used tea bags on a radiator, anyone?).

We wondered if the same is true when it came to advertising creative. Are the ads that the industry heaps with praise received as well by consumers? Do they actually invoke the emotional reaction that the marketing agencies intended? Or is it just a case of industry backslapping?

To find out, Attest surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,000 working age people in the UK*, showing them three recent TV ads. All of the ads come from leading agencies, are for big brands, and have received positive coverage in the marketing industry press.

Watch the ads for yourself and then read how they have been  perceived by the consumers they’re speaking to…

*People working in advertising or marketing industries have been excluded from this survey

KFC “Twisters” by Mother

What the marketers said: “A reimagined badass Colonel to appeal to the youth demographic”

What the consumers said: “It’s pretty cool but you need to twist our arm to make us buy”

After a 40-year absence in the UK, Mother London brought Colonel Sanders back to life with a 2018 ad campaign. But now the agency, brought in to refresh (read: modernise) KFC’s image two years ago, has made a bold move with a complete reincarnation of the character.

Mother reimagines the grey-haired, elderly mascot of Kentucky Fried Chicken as a young female rapper. Will this “twist”, which is meant to represent the “lunch with a twist” offered by KFC Twisters, be a hit with consumers or send them round the bend?

Risk-taking has paid off for the agency before – it won a host of awards for its handling of the fast food restaurant’s chicken shortage, when it rearranged the brand’s initials to spell “FCK” for an apology ad.  

However, Mother’s earlier campaign featuring a chicken dancing to DMX’s “X Gonna Give It To Ya” received the most complaints of any advert in the UK in 2017, with viewers objecting that it was disrespectful and distressing.

Little Black Book, which “celebrates the world’s best advertising creativity”, liked the new Twisters campaign, labelling it “both bold and unapologetic”.

“Shot in a rap music video-style, the ad has KFC’s badass Colonel preaching from a high throne-like chair. Oozing confidence whilst delivering a catchy monologue which is the stylistic love child of a boxing announcer and political manifesto,” it said.

What’s interesting about this ad is that rather than it being most popular among the youngest group of consumers (18-24), it’s the Millennials (25-34) who like it the most. Nearly 70% agreed it resonated with them and nearly 60% found it exciting. This demographic felt the most trustful towards the ad (26%) and believed it was targeted at them (78%).   

We asked them to rate on a scale of 1-10 how likely they were to buy KFC after watching the advert. Expressed as a Net Promoter Score (NPS), the Millennials scored the brand 9.9 (the score can be between -100 and 100, and anything above 0 is regarded as good).

On the other hand, the 18-24 year olds gave a much lower NPS of -2.9, although 67% agreed the ad resonated with them. Even the 35-44 year old age group was more likely to buy after watching the commercial, with an average score of 0.9, stating the ad made them feel happy (47%).

This ad was least well received by the eldest age group (55-64), only resonating with 36% of respondents. They felt the least truthful towards KFC (4%) and gave it a disappointing NPS score of -45.6, indicating low levels of buyer intent.

Overall NPS: -9.8

Cadbury “Cupboard raider” by VCCP

What the marketers said: “No one can resist kind kids”

What the consumers said: “This makes us feel happy, pass the Cadbury Fingers”

Kindness and giving have been key themes for Cadbury since it started working with agency VCCP in 2017 and adopted its new positioning, “There’s a glass and a half in everyone”.

The positioning is designed to shine a light on the small acts of generosity seen in society every day, which the brand believes facilitate moments of real human connection.

According to VCCP, the new directive “sees the brand embrace an authentic and caring approach, capturing the spirit of the nation in a way that individual consumers can relate to.”

The first creative produced by VCCP was  “Mum’s birthday” in January 2018, followed by “Secret Santa” in November. The latest advert, “Cupboard raider” sees a boy pinching Fingers from home to give to his friend at school.   

Campaign Live praised the most recent commercial in the series, stating: “Cadbury’s enthusiasm for childhood altruism remains strong in its new campaign for Dairy Milk Fingers.

“The work is consistent with Cadbury’s messaging since appointing VCCP: showing the generosity of children.”

But do consumers buy into the schmaltzy narrative? Are they growing tired of the repetitive theme? According to our figures, the answer is no. This ad made 70% of people feel happy.

The 35-44 year old demographic had the strongest emotional response, with 74% feeling happy and 70% agreeing the ad resonated with them. When asked about their likeliness to buy after watching, they gave a score of 19.8.

This was superseded, however, by the Millennials who scored Cadbury 21.9 and felt most trustful towards the brand (33%). Nearly 74% found the ad clever, and they were the demographic that felt most targeted by the advertisers (63%).

Generation Z (18-24) was the one most likely to feel sad after watching the ad (14%), although it was generally well received by them, with an NPS of 10.8. Those aged over 55 were least likely to purchase (NPS -23.6), however nearly 69% agreed the commercial did resonate with them.

Overall NPS 6.8

Virgin Media “Switch to Super: Bolt Signal” by BBH London

What the marketers said: “These celeb superhero antics will entertain and delight”

What the consumers said: “It’s mildly amusing… but we’re not switching to Virgin Media”

Virgin Media has been using Usain Bolt in its ads since 2012, but last year its advertising agency BBH London conceived a new role for the athletics superstar – “SuperBolt”.

The multi-million pound campaign, “Switch to Super” was launched last June, with ads running  before Britain’s Got Talent on ITV. The campaign dramatises the benefits of switching to Virgin Media and getting super broadband speeds and super entertainment.

In previous chapters, “SuperBolt” has appeared animated in a high-octane rescue mission, and on the search for a superhero suit. The third chapter in the series shows the creation of SuperBolt’s theme tune – a 50 piece orchestra struggles to keep up with the Olympic champion as he runs on a treadmill.

According to The Drum, the ad “comically dramatises” what it’s like to switch to Virgin Media’s ultrafast broadband: “The “theme tune” story, created to evoke familiar superhero scenes, sees the interaction between SuperBolt and the conductor bring an amusing edge to the film,” it said.

Ben Fennell, CEO of BBH, added that the “Switch to Super” campaign was “hugely entertaining and hardworking”. “It is big, bold and larger than life – just like Usain,” he said. So, did the consumers agree? Not exactly – it resonated with less than half of our respondents (41%) and only 43% thought the ad was clever.

The commercial was best received by those aged 25-34, 67% of whom agreed it resonated with them. The emotion it most made them feel was happy (41%), and they were also the most trusting group (28%). They were the only demographic to give Virgin Media a positive NPS based on viewing the ad (0.5).

Gen Z (18-24) was most impressed with the ad creative (67% agreed it was clever) but were still unlikely to become customers, with an NPS of -20.9. Most likely to feel surprised by the ad were the 35-44 year olds (34%), who were somewhat more likely to buy (-9.5).

Those aged over 55, however, were extremely unwilling to purchase after watching, giving an NPS of -54.4. They felt least excited by the ad (20%) and least trustful (8%).

Overall NPS -21.5

To wrap up

No matter how good the advertising executives think an idea might be, these results show it won’t always be perceived in the way you expected. Of the three commercials we examined, only Cadbury managed to generate positive sentiment across the board – and achieve good purchase intent among the demographics.

KFC somewhat missed the mark with its targeted youth market, while consumers didn’t find Virgin Media’s creative as entertaining as the brand’s ad agency had hoped. These results highlight how hard to impress the older demographic can be, but also show a reticence by Gen Z to be marketed to. Conversely, Millennials appear to be the most receptive consumer group of all when it comes to TV ads.

What is clear is that creative isn’t as well received by target audiences as marketers might expect. Far from it, in many cases. The need to test advertising creative among target demographics before committing millions in ad spend is more pronounced than ever. Testing concepts allows brands to understand how they will be received and, crucially, whether they will result in consumers actually purchasing your brand.

Ready to test your next advertising campaign? Ask Attest.


Content Team 

Our in-house marketing team is always scouring the market for the next big thing. This piece has been lovingly crafted by one of our team members. Attest's platform makes gathering consumer data as simple and actionable as possible.

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