Christmas ads - who won audience hearts and minds? The Sensum result


MARKS & SPENCER (watch ad here)

The advert overall had a great response with a high engagement throughout and a Sensum score of 55.1 (the Sensum score is an overview of how engaging the advertisement, media, or trailer is). As you can see from the graph, the average response doesn’t really drop throughout the advert:


Participants were generally positive about Marks and Spencer, with 50% selecting ‘Positive’ and 19% 'Very Positive’ in answer to our brand sentiment question. Not one participant selected 'Negative’ or 'Very Negative’.

Of the 70 participants, 81% already shopped at Marks and Spencer, whereas 19% don’t. What’s interesting is that even though this 19% don’t shop at Marks and Spencer’s, they generally have a neutral to positive feeling towards the brand.


When asked what they thought of the ad after viewing, the majority of participants selected 'Good’ (60%) and above (27%).

Males v. Females (blue = males, green = females)

After viewing the advert, the 'Very Positive’ response to the 'how do you feel about Marks and Spencer’ question increased from 19% to 21%. Only 1% downgraded their feeling towards Marks and Spencer to 'Negative’.

The most popular emotional response towards the advert was 'Joy’ at 30% - which was probably the desired response for a Christmas ad!

Any time a close-up of the actors appeared in the advert, the males’ emotional engagement increased more rapidly and frequently than the females’.

The males’ engagement near the end of the advert is still fluctuating - especially when the actors come on in their pyjamas!

Age Comparison (green = 18-24, purple = 35-44)

The engagement of the 18-24-year-olds dropped slowly about halfway through the video, whereas the 35-44-year-olds’ engagement increased until the end of the ad.

TESCO (watch ad here)

Similarly to the Marks and Spencer advert, Tesco’s has quite a good average response with a Sensum score of 52.91. There is, however, a significant increase in the graph just past the halfway point.



Initially the majority of participants felt neutral (41%) or positive (36%) towards Tesco with 14% negative , 6% very positive and 1% very negative.


A slight majority of the participants thought the advert was good (33%) with positive feelings making up 58% of their responses. Of the remaining 42% who felt less favourably toward the advert, only 3% chose 'Terrible’. The majority of the participants merely disliked the media, with 29% choosing ‘Not Very Good’.

Despite the slight majority of favourable reactions to the advert, the most common response of what participants felt after watching the advert was 'Boredom’, with 33%.

After the clip there was a slight change in feeling toward Tesco. 'Very Positive’ responses increased by 3% to 9%, 'Positive’ responses dropped 5% to 31%, and 'Neutral’ responses increased by 2% to 43%. The percentage of 'Negative’ and 'Very Negative’ responses saw no change.

Males (grey) v. Females (pink)

By and large, males and females reacted in much the same way to this clip; their responses following a similar curve with occasional differences. Males were slightly less engaged than their female counterparts throughout - except for when the refrain of Lionel Richie’s “Hello” kicks in. (During our audience test sessions, some of the guys either sang along or mentioned the song after viewing. Seemingly a big hit with the gents!)


Age Comparison (blue = 18-24, beige = 25-34)

Responses of participants in the 18-24 and 25-34 age ranges are reasonably similar. Both age groups are most engaged when the song’s refrain enters, though the 18-24 age group shows slightly more flux and form with some jagged peaks, especially when a shelf of champagne is on screen.


ASDA (watch ad here)

As with the previous adverts, there is a quite good average response with a Sensum score of 50.79. The graph shows a decreasing level of engagement from start to end.



Initially, the prevailing feeling amongst the participants was one of neutrality (41%) or of positive feeling toward the brand (34% 'Positive’, 7% 'Very Positive’). 13% chose 'Negative’ and 4% 'Very Negative’. 56% of viewers already shopped at ASDA, 44% didn’t.


Following their viewing of the advert, 69% of the participants reacted favourably, rating the ad as 'Good’ (39%), 'Very Good’ (21%) or 'Excellent’ (9%). 13% selected 'Not Very Good’, 13% 'Terrible’, and 6% 'Not Good At All’.

The majority of positive responses is backed up by the most commonly-identified feeling of 'Joy’ (26%), with a scattering of mostly favourable or neutral emotions making up the rest.

There was a significant change in feeling towards ASDA after the advert was shown. Neutral or positive reactions to ASDA rose from 69% to 73% after the clip, with an increase of 4% for very positive feelings and 9% for positive feelings while neutral feelings decreased by 22%. However, some of that loss in neutral feelings reflected a change to more negative feelings as the 'Negative’ response increased by 7% and 'Very Negative’ by 3%. (This particular ad was discussed a fair bit in the media, with accusations of sexism and a lack of modernity. When we asked people what they thought of the ad, some people (including members of our team) did find it sexist, but many commented that it was true to their own experience of Christmas in the home. It sparked some interesting conversations about the risks brands take - or don’t - in tailoring content for their target demographics.)

Males (light green) v. Females (dark green)

As the clip begins the female participants are more engaged than the males, though this changes around 20 seconds into the advert when males' engagement increases and the females’ steadily decreases. 57 seconds into the clip both male and female groups then follow the average (orange line) closely with only slight deviation from it.


Age Comparison: 18-24 (purple) v. 25-34 (red)

The 18-24 year old group started off more engaged than the 25-34 group, which largely followed the average response line (orange) apart from some slight peaks and troughs. By the 25-second mark the 18-24 group gradually decreased in engagement from their high start, with the 25-34 group becoming more engaged.


SAINSBURY'S (watch ad here)

Like the three previous adverts, Sainsbury’s ad gets a quite good overall response with a Sensum score of 50.76. The graph shows a slight increase in engagement from the start, peaking between 7-8 seconds then decreasing towards the end.



Sainsbury’s received an impressive 99% neutral to positive rating before the advert was shown, with 53% of that amount in the positive.


Only a slim majority of 55% reacted positively towards the advert, with the most commonly-identified emotion post-viewing being “Boredom”. This resulted in a change of feeling toward the brand itself, namely a 9% decrease in neutral to favourable feeling toward the brand (90%). 'Very Positive’ and 'Positive’ responses dropped by 2% and 6% respectively, with no change in neutral opinions and an 8% increase in negative opinions.

Sainsbury’s Males v. Females

Throughout this clip the male responses (dark grey) and female responses (green) remain close to the average line (orange), with some slight changes.


Age Comparison:18-34 (indigo) v. 25-34 (turquoise)

The 25-34 group’s engagement starts somewhat higher than the average, only to drop significantly around 4 seconds in. Conversely, the 18-24 age range gradually increases in engagement and hits a peak around the same time of 4 seconds into the advert. They then both follow a downward curve in a similar shape to the average with the 18-24-year-olds finishing slightly above the average engagement for the end and the 25-34-year-olds finishing slightly below.


The Winner…

…is Marks and Spencer, with the highest Sensum score, and a most common response of 'Joy’ to their advert. It’s interesting to note that the Marks and Spencer ad includes lots of changing scenes and music, keeping the audience engaged throughout, compared to some of the more story-driven ads on offer from their competitors.

This was just a light-hearted test of four of the large supermarket chains operating here in Northern Ireland; but it allowed us to showcase the potential of the Sensum mobile platform for capturing and reporting on in-depth response to media. If you’d like to talk to us about Sensum’s capabilities for audience insights, email A massive thank-you to everyone who took part in our tests. Particular thanks to Allstate Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Screen and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, all of whom allowed us to invade their offices to hold audience testing sessions. We appreciated people taking time away from their desks to try Sensum and share their thoughts and ideas - we enjoyed some great conversations! Keep them going at