From the suave Stella 4 hero to the Mafioso panda, with suicidal Creme Eggs and a gay Heinz kiss on the way, it's been a hot year in advertising. Charlie Wright runs the rule over our favourite ads of the past 12 months

Alcohol - the debut of Stella phwoar

Stella 4's place in drinkers' affections may still be uncertain, but its debut campaign was a supremely assured outing. Full of wit, 60s chic and Gallic (not Belgian) sophistication, it could have strolled right out of a Jean-Luc Godard movie. The ad feels like the first in a series and in its 'smooth outcome' strapline, InBev may have found a 'reassuringly expensive' for the next decade.

Baby - Cow & Gate either wows or grates
If you're shopping for baby products, the runaway hormones mean you probably find super-saccharine adverts featuring other people's babies cute rather than nauseating. And none deserved your cooing (or vomiting) more thoroughly than the cuddlier-than-thou gang gurgling their way through Cow & Gate's caption-happy Complete Care commercial.

Rocket science it may not be, but you can't argue with the 'healthy is happy' line - even if you'd never feed anything as sugary as this ad to your little darling.

Bagged snacks - Fern finds herself in moral Limbo
Ryvita's downsized diva, Fern Britton, was in hotter water than a preprandial lobster when it emerged she had shed the pounds with the help of a gastric band.

She returned on the stump for the new Limbos, hosting a sack race in which the low-fat snack streaks ahead of regular crisps - a big improvement on the earlier ads, which featured her head unnervingly pasted on a computer-generated body. Like it or not, Fern-gate was among the year's big stories - and her capture a coup for Ryvita.

Biscuits - Fox's panders to the mob
How else would you play up the quality credentials of Fox's Biscuits than with an animated Mafioso panda with a thick New Jersey accent? We loved Vinnie and his armchair sermonising, even if the whole 'biss-quits' routine is getting old pretty fast.

Bread - Warburtons wins war of bakers
If Hovis's historical epic was grocery's answer to Gladiator, its counterpart from arch-rival Warburtons was more Donnie Darko. Compelling, resolutely oddball and vaguely sinister, the 'Welcome to the family' campaign put its much-hyped rival in the shade with a brilliant idea and flawless execution.

Tension builds as a Japanese visitor touches down at Manchester airport and is increasingly bewildered to find Warburtons at every turn - his taxi driver, a travel agent, on the back of a replica football shirt. Finally he joins the family as he's served Warburtons toast in his hotel room.

Britain's favourite baker? Maybe. One of our favourite ads? You bet.

Cakes - Pringles: they're cakes, you know
Last year Skoda wowed critics with its ad featuring a car made of cake. Sadly, no bakers repaid the compliment by crafting a cake shaped like an affordable family saloon car. In fact, the best ad was for Pringles, which the High Court in July ruled were cakes, not crisps at all. Obviously.

Canned goods - Tuna lemmings go west
Less ubiquitous than last year's bear-versus-fisherman classic, the Thousand Island Lemmings campaign for John West Weight Watchers Tuna was still among 2008's best. A fisherman loses his consignment of tuna in a mad downhill trolley-dash, ravenously pursued by a horde of hungry dieters. They can't stop the runaway consignment plunging off the pier and into the sea, giving those lucky John West tuna one more taste of the wild before their final resting place in a baked potato's warm embrace.

Cereals - Kellogg's gets its Rocks off
Decades after Coco Pops first turned the milk brown, Kellogg's was back on top with Coco Rocks. Evolving from cartoon monkeys with infuriatingly catchy jingles to CGI caveman bashing each other over the head with alternating 'soft' and 'crunchy' Rocks, this ad was as sure to entertain students just falling out of bed after a hard day's sleeping as it was kids rolling back home after school.

'What goes on in that bowl?' asks the rhetorical voiceover. Whatever the creatives had for breakfast, we want some.

Confectionery (chocolate) - Cadbury employs Twisted logic
Who knows what turmoil drove that Creme Egg to commit suicide by whisk - only to eerily reform like the liquid-metal bad guy in Terminator 2.  The cartoon-horror of the Creme Egg Twisted commercial was not stunningly original - indeed, it strongly echoed Peperami's It's a Bit of an Animal campaign from a few years back - but it was fun, executed with grace - oh, and the product is absolutely delicious, too, which certainly helps.

Confectionery (sugar) - Natural selection in all its glory
The Natural Confectionery Company was already on to a winner with its commanding proposition of natural ingredients and real fruit flavours. But that was all a bit too worthy.

Then it unveiled the funniest and most bizarre adverts of the year, with exemplary voiceover work somehow bestowing genuine personality and compelling back-stories to inanimate gelatinous blobs. Bring on the trumpets!

Dairy (cheese) - all worship at Cathedral of cheese
Cathedral City had passers by enviously spotting others enjoy a bit of cheese on toast and becoming instantly compelled to fix their own. Simple concept - but, dammit, those toasties really do look good. 'You see it, you want it', is the slogan. Yes. Yes, we do.

Dairy (drinks) - Frijj hits the screaming high notes
Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the kitchen, Frijj came up with the most deliciously random ad of the year. A loving pastiche of The Blob, the 'Death Screams' campaign showed archetypal B-movie victims waiting with mounting impatience to be consumed by the slowest-moving foe in horror history.

'The thicker, the slower, the better' argues Frijj. Expect Freddy Krueger to become the new face of Yop next year.

Dairy (butters and spreads) - Rotten luck for Country Life
John Lydon - a.k.a. Jonny Rotten - fronting TV adverts for Country Life might infuriate Sex Pistols fans but for everyone else it was a right good laugh. The one-time king of punk was an unlikely choice to head up a buy-British campaign involving tweed suits and Morris dancing - but all the more inspired for it. He even seemed to quite enjoy it.

Dairy (yoghurts/desserts) - Müller's run for freedom
From farm to yoghurt in 24 hours. That's the idea behind Müller's 'milk relay', a joyous romp through the Shropshire countryside set to 60s anthem I Got Life. Whether you buy the yoghurt or not, you'll feel healthier just for watching the commercial.

Frozen - Birds Eye gives peas a chance
This was the year frozen came back in a big way. Ska legend Suggs led the charge as Birds Eye took the health message into fun new territory with its 'good mood food' concept, pitting an animated man-of-peas against a broccoli florette on the battleground of a kid's plate to decide which greens contain more iron. Spoiler alert: the peas win.

Household - Febreze, the saviour of smelly dates
We've all been there - your hot date goes well, you bring him/her back to the flat... and guys dressed as oversized onions, fish and chicken drumsticks crash the party. Anyone with bad habits or unhygienic housemates would relish the 'true freshness in a candle' offered by Febreze.

Hot beverages - donkeys do the hard work, monkeys get the glory
Buying the rights to the knitted monkey after the demise of ITV Digital was an inspired move for Unilever's PG Tips, modernising the old chimp routine with a darned face (and a darned sidekick in Johnny Vegas). In the latest ad campaign from hot agency Mother, Monkey showcases the tea's new hip environmental credentials as a Rainforest Alliance brand with a bizarre appearance of a donkey, which endearingly tries to nibble the woolen puppet. Ah.

Ice cream - Eva unleashes Magnum force
Magnum has been marketed as sex on a stick pretty much since day one, but having Eva Longoria, probably the world's most lusted-after Latino, get hot under the collar about the Mayan Mystica screams 'synergy' louder than the most hysterical advertising exec. This was one quest for pleasure certainly not aimed solely at desperate housewives.

Laundry - Ariel gets cold under the collar
If, as the ad says, cold is the new hot, Ariel Excel Gel is the coldest product in laundry right now. The clean, precise, to-the-point and convincing ad could have done without the lamentable 'Brr-illiant' pun, however.

Over the counter - Gaviscon gets to the heart of it
Gaviscon's heartburn heart-throbs were back in animated action for this year's Liquid Sachet launch. Critics have identified plenty of scope for innuendo in the antics of the hose-handling firemen, but they certainly do get the job done.

Personal care - Lynx delivers chocoholic heaven
Although the fixed smile, unblinking eyes and general being-made-of-chocolate thing make Lynx's new star perhaps ad-land's most disturbing animated creation since the spongiform world of Trebor's Mr Soft, you can't fault the campaign's message.  After all, who wouldn't want to lose an arm to a lust-crazed, chocolate-mad high-street honey?

Scientists are still struggling to prove the famed 'Lynx effect', but as long as the ads are funny and the girls are sexy, punters will keep spraying in.

Pet care - paws together for the Iams cats
Iams struck all the right notes with a cost-conscious message and brilliantly unconvincing fake paw (hopefully done for laughs). And it's always great to hear the treacle-sweet voice of Leslie Phillips dripping from the TV set.

Paper - Kleenex hires Moby Dick to star
A humpback whale in a goldfish bowl and an elephant in a hamster cage - two of the best images of the advertising year and perfect for the 'Big tissue, small box' message behind Kleenex Mansize Tissues. Sometimes the simplest ideas really are the best.

Pasta/rice/noodles - Rana: a week is a long time in pasta
With Downing Street rather under siege these days, how apt for Giovanni Rana to stage its 'campaign for fresh pasta justice' spoof outside Number 10. A cameo role from Whitehall heavyweight Ann Widdecombe added a welcome touch of, erm, glamour.

Sauce (condiments) - Heinz Mayo comes out of the closet
The notorious kiss between a gruff Noo Yawk sandwich man and his hubby had Middle England up in arms - and awareness of Heinz Deli Mayo through the roof. Hardly Brokeback Mountain, but by the time the ad was pulled, it was mission accomplished.

Sauces - Loyd banks on voice recognition
It's quite a trick to forge an entire career on having an irritating voice, but Loyd Grossman went even further for his sauce ads, with regular folk impersonating the great man over the hob (badly). 'Sauces with a distinctive voice' indeed. A class act.

Soft drinks - Pepsi stretches credulity to the Max
Pepsi Max Kicks took Messi to the moon, dressed Fabregas as Indiana Jones and even featured a cameo from frozen food entrepreneur David Beckham.

Overblown and over-produced perhaps, but its gently ironic pay-off - 'and the classic Aaaah' - showed just enough self-awareness to prevent it disappearing up its own ring-pull completely. No-one does 'big-budget romp' quite like Pepsi.

Soup - Green Giant's jolly good show
Green Giant splashed into soup with a 'worth reclaiming lunch for' theme that appealed to office drones everywhere.  Warm and fun, it climaxes with the best-loved 'ho ho ho' since Santa - the undisputed money-shot of grocery advertising.

Tobacco - Gallaher strikes Gold with B&H
Benson & Hedges lit up this year's Gramias with its Gold Fever campaign, which offered retailers the chance to win £1m in gold bullion. Judges loved the excitement and awareness generated by the campaign, while its "tangible commercial results" showed Gallaher still has the Midas touch.

Read our Review of the Year 2008...

View The Grocer's definitive Top Products 2008 survey.