Top of the Chocs

Analysis and insight of 60 years of Chocolate Advertising

LinkedIn 2nd April 2019

Like you I’m sure, there is nothing I like more on a Saturday night, than to enjoy some great TV. I must confess that I tend to spend a bit more time on Channels One to Four but the 16th of February was to be a night of change. It turned out that Channel 5 was going to reveal the Greatest Chocolate Ads of All Time! Yes they were.

You and I would get to enjoy almost an hour and a half of adverts occasionally interrupted by more adverts. As someone who works in the industry and who spends much of his time evaluating and optimising chocolate advertising, you can only imagine my excitement at this TV first. Unfortunately my desire to enjoy this televisual feast was sadly cut short. The latest chapter in the long running drama “Battle for the Remote” ending in defeat for me yet again. I was therefore consigned to catch up using My5 some days later. Again, I also need to confess that I haven’t watched much on this platform. Now I was destined to watch all of the ads in the programme as well as all of the unskippable groups of 5 ads that were going to be shown in between.

As I was reflecting on when I might actually get to watch the program, I also started to wonder which ads would be included? On what basis were they chosen? And as it wasn’t a top 100, how many of them would be work from my employer Mondelez? I also wondered how many would have been more recent given the continual pronouncements of TV passing away, creativity fading and everything that was great in Advertising apparently happened years ago. So being someone who works with data, I decide to make a note of all the copies shown, what they were advertising, who the current manufacturer is and the year first aired. In a moment of #excelexcitement, I also made a note of all of the ads shown in between for some reason.

I’ll just dwell on the ads shown in between to start with. These were of varying lengths but I did sit through all 31 of them. Having to do this mean’t I did at least pay a bit more attention to them. To be fair I don’t have a need for Hipp baby food but by the 4th time I saw one of their copies, I was starting to considering trying some. At the other end of the scale, Fidelity investments popped up 3 times. Some planner somewhere is clearly concerned that I might be dying soon. Celebrity Cruises wasn’t making me feel any younger so at least Uber Eats and Deliveroo (in the same slot), Spicebomb fragrance and Samsung S10 made me feel more Millennial. Then came Micellar Cleansing Water from Garnier which made me feel positively GenY. I did have to Google what Micellar Cleansing Water is and honestly, I’m still not entirely sure, however Garnier are convinced that there’s is the best so that is good enough for me. The final ad was for Batiste Dry Shampoo. Apparently this is a thing but as a card carrying member of the Follically Challenged, that one wasn’t for me.

So what about the Chocolate ads? Well as a data man I was nervous like all good researchers about the sample. The source wasn’t entirely clear other than what sounded a bit like researchers! They did at least come up with 113 examples as being the best however. To further cast doubt on the validity of the data, I soon realised that all 113 were British TV ads. I’m sure therefore that have been many great Chocolate ads from other parts of the world and also on other channels but these were clearly not considered or were not considered great enough. There was an expert panel however to provide analysis and comment including that guy who was the cat off of Red Dwarf and was in Strictly, There was also a former Milky Bar Kid and Janis Levy who famously appeared in the Gypsy Caravan Cadbury Flake ad many years ago.

So, with all of the disclaimers over with, what about the data? Well the first best Chocolate ad in the world shown was a copy called “Duet” for Cadbury Roses from 1956. Roses top and tailed the programme with “Another way to Say Thank” you airing in 2018 being the most recent ad included. Overall a combination of Cadbury and Fry’s (not just Turkish Delight but also interestingly originally Crunchie and Picnic) mean’t that I was happy to see that Mondelez was Top of the Chocs.

Not wishing to over blow our trumpet but it is also probably not surprisingly that the leading brands come from my employer’s stable too. What might be a surprise is that the number one entry, featuring 7 times, has not been on air since 2010.

Not wishing to blow a raspberry as well however, I’m sure that the Marketing team at HQ will notice that Cadbury Dairy Milk just missed out on the top 10

Just looking at the list suggests there might be more than an element of ‘nostalgia’ influencing the 113 choices spanning 62 years. If you look at the spread of entries over the 113 years, this does appear to be proven.

The halcyon days seem to have been the years from 1978 to 1984 when just over a third of all the greatest Chocolate Ads of all time were aired. 1986 seemed to mark the end of great ads with not even one being shown and since that year, it’s been an even slimmer set of pickings than you would find in a Woolworth’s pic’n’mix.

The latest 40 years have passed apparently with occasionally two, one or even no great Chocolate Ads being aired. 2007 was an exception however. This vintage year featured a certain Cadbury percussive Ape making his first appearance, 2 different copies for Creme Egg and Smarties also made an appearance with “Blue is Back”. Are we really now at a stage where we are lucky if we see one great Chocolate Ad in a year? Would this be the same if the programme was about the Greatest Car, Smartphone, Surface Cleaner or Price Comparison Website Ads of all time? Would Channel 5 or anyone else for that matter care?

An analysis of the last ten years indicates that Mars is leading the way with 4, Mondelez with 3 and 1 from Ferrero. Since the Rowntrees acquisition by Nestle 1988, there have apparently only been 4 great Nestle Chocolate Ads in 30 years. The Milky Bar Kid informs us that the only other character who lasted longer in British Advertising History were the PG Tips Chimps. I’ve no idea if this is true but the chap seemed convincing. I’m not sure they’d be ticking the brand purpose box these days but surely MBK is worth a reboot?

With an impending restriction of Advertising for HFSS products on television coming at presumably coming up at some point in the future

and possibly on Social Media as well…

you could argue that this data suggests there is at the very least a wake up call for the Chocolate industry. It could also be that there are many great Ads for Chocolate being aired these days but no one can remember them. In the words of Janis Levy:

“Adverts in Great Britain used to be like little works of art. Almost like tiny mini theatrical masterpieces and to have made one of those and for us all to have been involved in something like that is definitely something you don’t forget”

When was the last time you remember seeing a tiny mini theatrical masterpiece or even a large one? Is all this just nostalgia and so there’s nothing to be concerned about or is this a bit of wake up call for Chocolate Advertisers needing to up their game?