Watch the Top Back-to-School Ads

Kohl's, Target, Best Buy Snag Multiple Spots in Top Ten

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Retail brands are the most popular kids in the back-to-school ad category, according to new research from television and video analytics firm Ace Metrix.

A year after food and tech brands dominated the top ten list, retailers like Target and Kohl's reasserted themselves, taking five of the top ten slots. Best Buy, a strong contender last year, landed two versions of what was essentially the same ad in the top ten, with spots promoting Intel-powered two-in-one tablet laptops.

Kohl's performance was also noteworthy. The discount retailer, which failed to secure a single spot on the top 10 last year, debuted 14 back to school spots this summer, and three landed in the top ten.

"Kohl's performance as the brand with the highest average Ace Score is particularly remarkable given that it debuted the most back to school ads," Peter Daboll, CEO of Ace Metrix, said in a statement.

With nearly $69 billion in sales up for grabs during this crucial period, competition stiffened this year. Total back to school ad volume was up 25% to 71 ads, from 55 last year, according to the report. Last year ad volume fell 11%.

With that increased volume came changes in tactics. After just 16% of ads focused on humor last year, more than a third emphasized laughs in 2014. Ads focused on dads also proliferated, and they scored nearly 6% higher than average.

This year's top-scoring ads below.

1. Target – Supplies They Need
This Kim Wilde-quoting ad highlights Target's plan to donate school supplies to the Kids in Need Foundation. The pitch: parents who buy pencils, rulers and other supplies can feel good knowing another child will start the semester prepared.

2. Best Buy – Four Majors
The star of this ad about an industrious female student is an Intel-powered laptop/tablet, which is aimed squarely at parents of college-aged kids.

3. Old Navy – Spelling Bee
With Amy Poehler in charge of a spelling bee for young children, we are all winners.

4. Kohl's – Back to School
This rapid-fire spot cuts through a mixture of kid- and home-centered products.

5. Best Buy – Get It All
The male version of the overachiever featured in another Best Buy spot, "Four Majors," is more focused on the audio-visual capabilities offered by the Intel laptop/tablet.

6. Kohl's – Back to School
This 15-second spot frames the Kohl's sale as having the lowest prices of the season, rather than just a touting back to school promotions.

7. Payless – Back to School Styles
A pair of chanting, overjoyed girls drives this ad.

8. Staples – Excitement
This 15-second spot sneaks a low-price guarantee into an all-ages dance roundup.

9. Kohl's – Dorm Destination
This brightly colored roundup focuses on items for parents with college-aged kids, a category that has dominated this list in recent years; last year, ads for big-ticket items for older students dominated.

10. Target – Back to School
Like "Supplies They Need," this spot sets an iconic song (Bob Marley's "Every Little Thing") behind a rush of available products, then sneaks in a call to action to use Target's coupon app, Cartwheel, at the very end.