Warburtons’ The Giant Crumpet Show is the most all-round successful Christmas TV advertisement of 2015, according to research carried out by Millward Brown.

The ad – which features The Muppets meeting Chairman Jonathan Warburton, and Kermit wishing viewers ‘Merry Crumpets’ – performed best across all key aspects that drive sales and help to build a brand.

Millward Brown evaluated 18 TV ads, testing them with consumer audiences using its AdExpress performance measurement tool. Viewers scored each on 12 factors: Branding, Involvement, Enjoyment, Made me love the brand, Sets the trends, Persuasion, New information, Different information, Relevant information, Believable information, Different from others and Meets my needs.

The Giant Crumpet Show was the best all-rounder, scoring highest on ‘involvement’, ‘branding’, ‘sets the trends’ and ‘persuasion’. It was rated joint highest on being different from others, and second highest on relevance.

Cadbury’s was rated the second strongest overall performer with Free the Joy – created this year’s most-loved ad. Viewers responded positively to the brand’s aim of contributing to Christmas by bringing events to our cities with its advent calendar trucks, rather than just advertising ‘at’ us. Free the Joy was most successful at connecting with consumers on an emotional level, generating the highest levels of love and affinity and enjoyment.

Argos was this year’s ‘biggest improver’ – with Just Can’t Wait achieving higher scores than its 2014 ad across all 12 key factors. High levels of involvement and enjoyment helped it to effectively convey its free same day delivery message, which was seen as distinct from the messages its competitors were conveying. This proved highly persuasive, and drove perceptions that Argos is ‘setting the trends’.

Despite causing some controversy by calling Santa’s existence into doubt, PayPal’s No Presents ad scored well on emotional affinity, persuasion and enjoyment, and highest of all on providing relevant and believable information and meeting people’s needs. Viewers liked the interplay between the brothers, and identified with the parents’ desire to stay at home rather than facing the shops.

John Lewis’ highly anticipated Man on the Moon created an emotional connection with viewers, although it scored lower than the 2014 ad on enjoyment, affinity (love) and persuasion. Similarly, while viewers found Sainsbury’s Mog’s Christmas Calamity enjoyable and involving, it drove involvement and love to a lesser extent than Sainsbury’s 2014 creative. While both brands boldly decided against overtly branding their ads, both have achieved huge media buzz with strong media coverage, extensive Twitter debate and more than 20m YouTube views each.

Warburtons’ marketing director Mark Simester said: “”For our Giant Crumpets advert to be singled out by UK consumers as their favourite is a huge honour. Rather than look to pull on the nation’s heartstrings this Christmas, we wanted to set a fun tone with our Muppets extravaganza for the launch of our Giant Crumpets - while we take our baking seriously, we don’t like to take ourselves too seriously as a brand, and the Muppets perfectly reflect Warburtons’ sense of fun and family.

“The impact of the campaign so far has surpassed our expectations. It’s no secret that the festive season is the most competitive sales occasion for brands and retailers alike, however the combination of strong product innovation coupled with a light-hearted creative campaign has seen Giant Crumpets become a firm favourite in UK households”

Chairman Jonathan Warburton said: “We’ve had a great response to the campaign - we set out to bring some joy and fun to advertising at Christmas, and this is proof that we achieved it with The Giant Crumpet Show. The Muppets were our ideal partners in this, as their sense of family and humour fits perfectly with Warburtons – and they were great fun to work with!”

Millward Brown head of marketing Amanda Phillips said: “Warburtons’ success shows you don’t have to make people cry to win their hearts, or shower them with Christmas to make an impact. The ad is highly branded and humorous, and cuts through the festive noise to build emotional loyalty and motivate people to buy. It gets viewers feeling good, and excited about the new product. The UK public loves The Muppets and loves crumpets, and together they’re a winning formula.

“While last year’s John Lewis ad created warm and fuzzy feelings, 2015’s didn’t perform as strongly; perhaps the Man on the Moon left us a little melancholy. The storytelling was powerful, however, and there can be no denying the ‘buzz’ it produced – its virality is immense, and the public interest it generated has done the job for the brand. John Lewis continues to herald the start of the festive season.”

Analysis of the ads tested has highlighted three vital elements for developing Christmas creative that stands out and engages consumers and, ultimately, drives sales and builds loyalty.

1. Step away from Christmas to win at Christmas: Warburtons’ collaboration with The Muppets is the ad which involves people most – it tells a story which captures the audience’s imagination, is entertaining, funny and distinct, and stands out from the sea of sameness of other Christmas ads. This ad also scores high on branding, and makes consumers love the idea of eating Warburtons’ crumpets during the winter season/Christmas occasion.

2. Make your ad distinct – There’s more opportunity for brands to be bold at Christmas, and create advertising which is memorable. As Cadbury’s ‘most-loved’ ad proves, it’s not necessary to reveal too much information to get cut-through – it achieves high branding scores through the use of beautiful and stylish images of ‘brand furniture’ and strong associations. Christmas ads must be distinct to make consumers pay attention and keep interest levels high as they see them repeatedly over the period.

3. The craft of storytelling is key: Man on the Moon, tale of Mog’s Christmas Calamity and The Giant Crumpet Show all move between reality and fantasy and capture consumers’ imaginations. It doesn’t matter that consumers don’t think they’re believable; they successfully create an emotional connection with viewers.