Mark Ritson: Awards of excellence and the execrable

After much deliberation among the august judging committee (me) here are the awards for the best and worst of 2013.


Best Brand of the Year – Aldi

Yes, the economic environment in 2013 was perfect for the German discounter but the way Aldi still made the most of it speaks volumes about its growing power and potential to disrupt the UK grocery market for the next decade. Its peculiar combination of top quality and low prices combined with a private label philosophy that sees less than 10 per cent of its sales derive from branded goods, makes Aldi almost impossible to combat. According to data from Kantar, all four of Britain’s big supermarkets are now losing share to Aldi and the trend looks like it will continue. Aldi looks set to grow its share of the British grocery sector from 3 per cent to 4 per cent in 2013 – a spectacular sales growth of 30 per cent for the year.

Worst Brand of the Year – RBS

Given the generally horrendous state of British banking brands in 2013 you really have to push the envelope to be the worst of the worst, but RBS truly went the extra mile this year. A quick google search for “RBS fined..” will reward you with a veritable smorgasbord of shitty, underhand activities that include violating sanctions with Iraq, Sudan and Burma, illegal fixing of the Libor rate in order to make illegal profits from interest rates and failing to keep adequate records for many of its major transactions. It’s always been debatable to what degree brand equity influences retail banking given the lack of differentiation and switching costs involved in personal finance, but will 2014 finally see some of these more wayward brands like RBS and Lloyds lose share to better run brands like Nationwide?

Best Campaign of the Year – End Marmite Neglect

An easy winner: great insight; first class execution; the strategy behind the campaign made sense; and the campaign took risks and got noticed. In fact you would be hard pushed to find fault with anything Unilever did with its Marmite campaign in 2013. The only missing piece is sales. Despite the campaign concluding in September and Marmite being a classic fast-moving consumer good, we have still had no word on what the best campaign of 2013 did for sales. Surely there was a massive sales spike? Over to you Unilever…

Worst Campaign of the Year – Heres to Change

Everything you hate about advertising in a two minute slice of hell. It was clearly a fun idea to communicate that tech company HTC could literally stand for anything but step back from talk of “subversive thinking” and “billion dollar budgets” for a moment and it was clear that this was brand suicide at its most spectacular. At this stage it is traditional to call out the agency responsible but as HTC has taken all its creative work in-house this year and did this from its headquarters in Taiwan, we can only blame the client. HTC? Hopeless Taiwanese Calamity might be the more appropriate constituents of that acronym.

Endorsement of the Year

It could have gone so terribly wrong. There was a new curved widescreen TV from LG on the wall of a mansion in Sydney. There was a throng of bemused journalists. And there was Ewan McGregor who had been flown in especially as LG’s new celebrity “face” to endorse the new product. There was nervous pause when the movie star was asked why he was endorsing the new TV screen. “Well…because… it’s a fucking good telly” was McGregor’s eventual response. But what might have first appeared to be a PR blunder turned into a rare moment of genuine endorsement from a celebrity endorser. McGregor’s appealing turn of phrase and disarming honesty saved the day and his comments were widely reported the next day down alongside glowing testimonials of the LG TV.

CEO of the Year

Angela Ahrendts. Again. She has more than doubled the market cap of Burberry during her tenure – not bad considering the brand was already firing on all cylinders when she joined. News of her departure saw half a billion pounds wiped off the company’s value overnight and prompts the question how well former creative director Christopher Bailey will fill her shoes. And how Ahrendts herself will fare at Apple.

Columnist of the Year

Trick question. That was me. Ho ho ho.