TV ads at 60: The top 10 most effective TV ads of all time

The IPA has trawled through its back catalogue to find the most effective TV-led campaigns of all time. From Barclaycard to BT and Tesco, find out which campaigns made the cut.

TV ads are getting better. According to a study of more than 1,000 consumers by creative agency JWT, 70% of consumers think advertising is more creative than in the past, while 56% find it more entertaining, 58% funnier and 63% higher quality.

But what are the best TV campaigns of all time? Not the most voted for or the most viewed, but the ones that were most effective at generating ROI.

Here is the IPA’s list of the top 10, in alphabetical order.

Barclaycard: Put it away, Bough

The series of spots featuring Rowan Atkinson’s bungling secret agent helped the card brand reverse a decline in market share and grow profits in a competitive sector.
IPA Gold Effectiveness Award Winner 1996

BT –  It’s Good to Talk

Fronted by Bob Hoskins, this campaign changed perceptions about the cost of calls and encouraged people to stay on the phone for longer.
IPA Effectiveness Awards Grand Prix Winner 1996.

Foster’s – Good Call

With the biggest demonstrated Return on Investment of any beer campaign in the IPA’s history, this series of humorous ads helped the lager brand reclaim market leadership.
IPA Effectiveness Awards Grand Prix Winner 2014

Halifax – Staff as Stars campaign

A daring decision to create ads around the former building society’s staff helped the brand clearly differentiate itself in a competitive sector, leading to a 150% jump in sales and 43% rise in profit per current account customer in the first year.
IPA Effectiveness Awards Gold Winner 2002

Hovis – As good today as it has ever been

An epic 122 second spot celebrated the bread brand’s heritage, delivering a wave of PR coverage and contributing to a 14% sales increase.
IPA Effectiveness Awards Grand Prix Winner 2010

John Lewis Christmas – The Long Wait

Through a string of highly emotive ads culminating in a highly successful Christmas 2010 campaign, John Lewis generated incremental sales estimated at more than £1bn.
IPA Effectiveness Awards Grand Prix Winner 2012

Milk Marketing Board – Wake up to Milk

One of the most famous ads of its day, this animated sequence triggered a reverse in the declining share of milkmen and increased orders from existing customers.
IPA Effectiveness Awards Grand Prix Winner 1992

PG Tips Chimps – various 1955 -1990

For over 35 years, the tea brand relied on its Chimp brand characters. The brand’s dominant position was initially achieved because of the interest in the brand triggered by the chimps, with later spots communicating that the brand offered added value – even though its price was always higher than that of its competitors.
IPA Effectiveness Awards Grand Prix Winner 1990

Tesco – Every little helps

Between 1995 and 1999, Tesco’s advertising helped the retailer consolidate its lead, with its lead character, ‘Dotty’ (played by Prunella Scales), sharpening the brand’s appeal with a  well-received message about value for money.
IPA Effectiveness Awards Grand Prix Winner 2000

Department for Transport, Drink Drive – various 1979 -2009

In a 30-year period from 1979-2009, hard-hitting TV ads demonstrably changed attitudes and behaviour towards drink driving.
IPA Effectiveness Awards Gold Winner 2012

The top 10 is based on campaigns that won either Gold or a Grand Prix in the IPA Effectiveness Awards since they began in 1980. The only criteria: the campaigns had to be TV led, generate a measurable and significant impact and deliver demonstrable results over at least a year.

Read More: TV ads at 60

TV ads at 60: A history

TV ads at 60: how the formula has changed

TV ads at 60: Paddy Power, M&S and McVitie’s on the role of TV advertising


TV ads at 60: A history

Leonie Roderick

From subliminal messaging to organised flashmobs, UK television advertising has come a long way since the 1950s. Discover what highlights there have been along the way.