The commercial break is for making a cuppa or grabbing a beer, right? Not always. Charlie Wright chooses the ads that had us stuck to the sofa or rolling in the aisles

Stop! It's Bowtime
Gone are the bar-splintering arrows, but Strongbow has bounced back with Bowtime, a Braveheart riff urging the nation's grafters to soothe their dusty throats with (for once, ice-free) cider. The 'bankers' follow-up, mocking City gents' 'contribution' to the economic woes, added a touch of satire not seen in alcohol ads since the Hofmeister bear punched that Richard Nixon lookalike.

Once upon a time, there was a cow and a gate
Every fairy tale needs a dastardly villain. To promote its Baby Balance breakfast cereal, Cow & Gate invoked the twin spectres of salt (boo!) and sugar (hiss!) for a reworking of the Goldilocks story that left a ridiculously cute flaxen-topped tot greedily gobbling up a bowl of the balanced cereal that was neither too sweet nor too salty. In fact, it was "just right". This ad represented a novel take on a timeless story that played cleverly on parents' very modern worries about their youngsters' nutrition.

Bagged snacks
Hula Hoops finally plays with its food
If you've ever eaten a Hula Hoop, you've almost certainly done the thing where you put them on your fingers like rings and bite them off one by one. KP finally made that universal truth an official part of its marketing strategy with a series of ads that showed snackers "in a hole world of their own". The pick of the bunch was the young man on the train lost in his headphones, performing a DJ record-scratching routine using his Hula Hoops as decks. In a world of its own and a class of its own.

Mr Kipling caps an exceedingly quiet year
There were few classics in a cake category that was largely moribund this year. For Mr Kipling, ditching its exceedingly old but perennially popular tagline at a time when consumers want comfort food and the retro trend keeps rolling on... well, that was either brilliantly audacious or just rather stupid. Perhaps both.

Japanese office mischief from Mikado misfit
Presumably the slogan of 'More than a little bit tempting' referred to Mikado's chocolate-covered biscuit sticks rather than the oh-so-innocent Japanese secretary who scrambled atop a photocopier to pinch a snack from her boss's stash on a high shelf only to be caught by him accidentally taking snaps of her own backside in true office-slacker fashion. The impish, genuinely amusing ad continued the office theme that characterised previous campaigns outside the UK.

Canned food
Spam up your life
Hormel Foods treated us to a spruce retired couple sharing a candle-lit Spam salad. With its delightfully silly backing song, the ad was rather touching if extra poignant for the elderly folks who live on the stuff 365 days a year.

Kingsmill's royal confessional
After last year's blockbusters from Hovis and Warburtons, 2009 saw bakery brands loafing on their laurels. Kingsmill did best with its Confessions campaign, revealing the depraved depths its fans will sink to for a bacon sandwich.

Alpen makes muesli sexy
The hills were alive with sexual tension when Alpen confidently eschewed talking about muesli to show five scantily clad girls doing aerobics beside an Alpine lake. Then, in an ironic nod to political correctness, it tore its gaze away... in favour of some burly Alpine chaps working up a sweat in Lycra lederhosen. The ad was funny, had gorgeous scenery oh, and did we mention the five scantily clad girls?

Dairy (drinks)
Cravendale purity control is 100% weird
Cravendale milks the weirdness to the maximum in its animated tale of a hard-drinking bull that can't get enough of the super-filtered white stuff. Its Wild West scene stars outcasts from a farmyard play-set and a trapdoor through which the bull disappears to be 'purified'. It ends happily with a hint of bovine romance, though.

Confectionery (sugar)
What the crocodile hat are Randoms on about?
Anyone who's heard the biased post-match analysis of Premier League bosses knows football managers talk rubbish but even Sir Alex Ferguson would struggle to match the nonsensical tirade unleashed by Randoms' Sunday League dugout schemer. "I want you to snowflake their teapot!"

Confectionery (chocolate)
Aero pulls some major air
Boarding legend Bob Burnquist looped and ground his way through hundreds of chocolate-coloured balloons for Aero's £7m relaunch this year. In a sly move as delicious as an Aero itself, the Jackson Five were on the Feel the Bubbles soundtrack presumably in a nod to Michael's pet chimp.

Dairy (cheese)
Boursin reaps what it sows
If running over picnickers with a combine harvester doesn't stick in the memory, nothing will. Boursin made a welcome return to our screens this year with a winning combination of mechanized farmyard death and that classic 'du vin, du pain, du Boursin' strapline. Do you?

Dairy (butters and spreads)
Stuck in the middle with Clover
Like a dairy Dave Cameron staking his claim for the political centre ground, Clover planted its flag "smack bang in the middle" for its latest campaign. As neither full-fat butter nor zero-taste margarine, it positioned itself as "the best of both, the happy place" of spreads, with a series of contrasting images such as feast and famine, slob and fanatic. Simple, but strangely persuasive.

Dairy (yoghurts/desserts)
Shape gives the Noisettes a whirl
Wild Young Hearts by up-tempo chart-botherers the Noisettes accompanied Shape's jazzed-up sun-drenched ad targeting diet-conscious youngsters. Now all we need is an ad for a digestion-boosting yoghurt that uses mega-hit Don't Upset the Rhythm.

Salmon fish fingers: pretty in pink
Birds Eye turned up the heat the old-fashioned way for its new salmon fish fingers. When the sultry salmon finger disrobed to reveal its pink interior to two wowed cod sticks (memorably voiced by Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer), it was a veritable Ursula Andress bikini moment.

Dettol declares germ warfare
Putting the fear of God into shoppers by suggesting their homes were germ-ridden death traps, Dettol cashed in on swine flu paranoia for its Disinfectant Spray, with footage of swarming germs worthy of McCarthyite Cold War propaganda.

Ice cream
Get it together with Häagen-Dazs
Häagen-Dazs was speaking the language of lurve in its latest campaign, which saw two star-crossed lovers watching a ballet from way up in the rafters. Far subtler than Eva Longoria lustfully eyeing a Magnum, this ad still deftly conveyed the message that ice cream and sex go hand in hand even if you're getting rather more of one than the other.

Excel Gel launders money legally
Ariel gave new meaning to the phrase 'money laundering' for this year's Excel Gel ads with a washing machine that prints cash something even Dyson hasn't come up with yet. Ariel urged us to turn down the temperature and save pounds a message rather timelier than the obligatory bloke in jeans and white t-shirt uniform that's been shorthand for laundry day ever since that Levi's ad.

Hot beverages
Nescafé shines through the instant gloom
Growing coffee beans in a rainforest. Capturing them in a jar. Taking them to an Amazonian temple? Never mind a plot that made less sense the more times you saw it Nescafé's super-glossy Indiana Jones pastiche reignited interest in an instant coffee category that was previously more stagnant than the Osmond family gene pool.

Over the counter
Beechams beats off the sumo-sized symptoms
A quartet of sumo wrestlers formed the sneezing, wheezing embodiment of flu in an eye-catching ad for Beechams Ultra All in One. Like a flu remedy from Alice In Wonderland, it helped under-the-weather heroine Becky grow to Godzilla-style proportions to scare off the tubby grapplers. Luckily, gigantism is not thought to be a common side effect.

Kleenex sings Sven it's winning
Rocker Emma Bunton and money-man Bob Geldof were upstaged hilariously by Sven-Goran Eriksson and his dressing-room keepy-uppies. The normally placid Swede won't have come cheap as the Football Association can attest but his appearance in one of the year's best ads was simply priceless. Back of the net.

Personal care 
King of Shaves bends it without Beckham
King of Shaves urged ladykillers to bend the rules with a campaign for its Azor razor that did exactly that, eschewing costly celeb endorsements and smug-looking blokes stroking their chins in the mirror. Instead, we got an animated sensory assault that saw Darwin stripped of his beard by a chimp barber, set to foot-stomping club mash-up Lust And Charm by Mat Le Star and MC Strategy. This 'Shaveolution' was definitely televised.

Pot-heads and jocks in musical
Dehydrated hangover antidote Pot Noodle debuted its kebab flavour this year and, even better, unveiled a hilarious, 'tastified' spoof of High School Musical that had more clunking rhymes and misdirected high-fives than a month on the road with Zac Efron.

Pet care
Bakers boldly goes beyond
Blasting dogs into space went out in the 1950s, but even animal rights do-gooders wouldn't object to walkies in orbit if they were this much fun. Bakers Complete took its four-legged stars where no dog has been since the Soyuz missions to show how far you have to go to find a more popular petfood.

Sauce (condiments)
Price is White as Knorr's stock rises
Having calmed down from his stint on Hell's Kitchen, Marco Pierre White added credibility to Knorr's Stock Pots. Thanks to the brooding pseudo-Frenchman, Unilever said the product was one of its best successes of 2009.

Cycle of korma goes on for Patak's
For its first campaign in five years, Patak's told us 'Why Britain Loves Curry'. Strongly reminiscent of the Hovis epic, the ad traced its chairman's steps from boy to curry mogul in a journey packed with period detail, gorgeous ingredients and wry humour

Savoury pastry
Ginsters eyes up the talent
Ginsters showed a neat sense of irony for an ad that ended with the strapline 'real honest food'. The pasty kings disguised spies as a pantomime cow, a bag of wheat and a beetroot to 'keep a close eye' on its ingredients. It was fun, but also got across a serious provenance message. Nothing says authenticity like fake udders.

New Covent Garden gets seriously fresh
New Covent Garden Food Co made its TV debut in February with an advert that subtly played up the brand's emphasis on freshness by repeating the word 'fresh' at least a dozen times in 30 seconds. Beautifully shot, with images as warm as a tureen of steaming soup, this was a sure-footed arrival.

Soft drinks
Robinsons sings its own praises
Calling an advert 'charming' risks damning it with faint praise, but Robinson's Be Natural campaign was just that. Following a tiny songbird around his comfortable home was a sweet idea, but lovingly executed details like the pigeon newsreader on TV and the human cuckoo clock pushed the spot to the verge of greatness.

And one more we loved...
Wall's best bits are best of the rest
To underline that Wall's only uses the two best cuts of pork for its bangers (not lips and hooves, presumably), Wall's dreamed up "the two best bits". One of the memorable iterations showed the two best bits of fatherhood an emotional dad cradling his newborn nipper, then, having lost his hair, waving goodbye to the now surly teenager as he leaves the family home. Another idea riffing on the same crafty concept starred a talkative parrot morphing from a charming 'pretty boy' into a foul-mouthed feathered fiend abusing its owner.

Top Products Survey 2009