For February, ads from Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Home Depot Inc. and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. took the top spots in advertising effectiveness in a month that saw an overall decline in the number of campaigns promoted by major U.S. retailers.

Researchers at ABX who compile the monthly Advertising Benchmark Index report noted that the top U.S. retailers tracked ran 432 new ads during the month — down 228 ads from January, which turned out to be a more promotional month overall as retail brands worked to clear inventory.

Ads are rated by a consumer panel on the basis of 14 variables. A score of 100 equals “average effectiveness.” The ABX Index measures the overall impact of an ad.

For television, Wal-Mart’s “Best Things in Life Are Free” spot came in with a 127 ABX Index score, which was driven by a 182 reading for the brand’s “reputation.”

“This upbeat spot uses a great jazz song, ‘The Best Things in Life Are Free,’ text and no spoken audio to communicate Wal-Mart’s new ability to ship orders in two days for free,” ABX researchers said. “Visuals include happy people using their cellphones and computers to order from”

The ad from Wal-Mart touted free, two-day shipping and no membership fees.

See the Wal-Mart ad here.

For radio, Home Depot won out with its “GE top load washer and matching dryer…” spot. Here, the home improvement chain keyed into consumers looking to upgrade their homes with new appliances. The ad focused on a value proposition that included saving $200 when both units are purchased at the same time as well as 12 months of financing.

This ad came in with an ABX Index score of 110, and would have done better if the “awareness” measure was higher. “Like most radio spots, this one featured an urgent male voiceover — hurry! — and background with a heavy, loud beat,” the ABX report noted adding that the ad had weak likability with listeners. Still, it was enough to give it the top position for radio.

In the digital ad category, Walgreens’ flu relief products ad was number one. It’s ABX Index score was 123, and driven by a high “reputation” score. The researchers at ABX noted the ad relied on visuals and text with no spoken audio. “The visuals show animated flu relief products moving into a shopping basket to upbeat music,” ABX said.

For print, Kroger Co. took the top placement with a coupon-focused banner ad. It’s ABX Index score was 119, and it too was buoyed by a strong “reputation” score (of 149). The supermarket chain giant also grabbed the top spot for free-standing inserts in February.

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