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Eat it Up: Top U.S. Restaurant Ads – Q1 2013
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Eat it Up: Top U.S. Restaurant Ads – Q1 2013

Restaurant advertisers spend considerable dollars on campaigns aimed at getting consumers to eat up their creative concepts and, ultimately, their food. Notably, more than one-fourth of the world’s advertising dollars are spent on fast-moving consumer goods like quick service (QSR) and casual dining restaurants.

So which ads are resonating with Millennials and Generation-Xers—two demographic groups that frequent QSR/casual restaurants? In the U.S., Nielsen conducted an analysis of new QSR/casual dining TV ads in Q1 2013 and found that big names like Papa John’s, Taco Bell and Subway created the most-liked ads among Millennials and Gen-Xers.

When we analyzed the full dataset of new QSR/casual dining ads in Q1 2013, we found that five ads were able to hit the sweet spot with both groups:

Papa John’s Jim Nantz ad and KFC’s Game Day Couchgating ad were timely Super Bowl-themed spots that used celebrity spokespersons and humor to connect with Millennials and Gen-Xers.

KFC regularly uses humor to connect across audiences and succeeded in Q4 2012 with its “Hide and Seek” ad, which ranked sixth among Millennials and third among Gen-X.

Subway’s “FebruANY” foot long ad and Taco Bell’s “Wow” Locos Tacos ad both leveraged ownable concepts to keep audiences hungry for existing promotions.

Top 10 Most-Liked QSR/Casual Dining Ads Among Gen-Xers, Q1 2013

Rank Brand Ad Description Net Likeability Index
1 Papa John’s Jim Nantz – Vote Heads or Tails :30 207
2 Olive Garden 2 for 25 Italian Dinner :30 186
3 KFC Hide & Seek – Dad Eats Son’s KFC Bites :15 186
4 Sonic Guys Hiding & Eating Molten Cake Sundae’s :15 186
5 KFC GameDay Bucket Couchgating :15 179
6 IHOP People Show Off Pancake Eating Techniques :15 171
7 Papa John’s Jim Nantz – Vote Heads or Tails :15 171
8 Subway A Whole New Februany :30 171
9 Taco Bell Wow – Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos :15 171
10 Subway $5 Footlongs :15 164

Only new ads that started airing in Q1 2013 (January 1, 2013 to March 31, 2013) were considered. The Net Likeability Index was calculated by taking the net likability score (% of ad recallers who “strongly” or “somewhat” liked the ad) for each top ad and indexing versus the mean score of all new QSR and casual dining restaurants among Gen-Xers.
For example, with a Net Likeability Index of 207, the top-ranked Papa John’s ad has proven to be 2.07 times as well liked as the average new QSR/casual dining ad among Gen-Xers.
Source: Nielsen

Top 10 Most-Liked QSR/Casual Dining Ads Among Millennials, Q1 2013

Rank Brand Ad Description Net Likeability Index
1 Subway A Whole New Februany :15 227
2 Taco Bell Wow – Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos :15 227
3 Sonic Footlong Hotdogs :30 218
4 Sonic Footlong Hotdogs :15 191
5 KFC GameDay Bucket Couchgating :15 173
6 KFC Hide & Seek – Dad Eats Son’s KFC Bites :15 173
7 Subway A Whole New Februany :30 173
8 Dave & Buster’ Eat Play Win Combo :30 164
9 Papa John’s Jim Nantz – Vote Heads or Tails :30 164
10 Sonic Guy Gets Grounded – Sweet Potato Tots :15 164

Only new ads that started airing in Q1 2013 (January 1, 2013 to March 31, 2013) were considered. The Net Likeability Index was calculated by taking the net likability score (% of ad recallers who “strongly” or “somewhat” liked the ad) for each top ad and indexing versus the mean score of all new QSR and casual dining restaurants among Millennials.
For example, with a Net Likeability Index of 227 the top ranked Subway ad has proven to be 2.27 times as well liked as the average new QSR/casual dining ad among Millennials.
Source: Nielsen

While Millennials and Gen-Xers both liked five of the top 10 QSR/casual dining ads, we saw that advertisers used different themes and creative approaches to appeal to these two demographics. Winning ads among Millennials were notably humorous, upbeat and fast paced – all proven best practices to reach the age 13-24 population. The “Wow” Taco Bell ad, which takes a fast-paced, upbeat, new and exciting angle, ranked No. 2 among Millennials. Taco Bell also had a strong social media presence during the recent Super Bowl, which could have given the company an edge among teens and young adults. Ranked No. 3 and No. 4, Sonic’s “Foot Long Hot Dogs” spots feature two guys bantering about the magic of the Sonic foot long hot dog, and this type of silly humor is a characteristic that’s demonstrated to be particularly impactful among Millennials.

The remaining top ads among Gen Xers featured characters ages 35-54 in relatable situations. The No. 2 ad among Gen Xers was Olive Garden’s “2 for 25” Italian dinner spot, which features a Gen X woman and her husband going to the restaurant to take advantage of the company’s date night promotion. The fourth-ranked ad, Sonic’s “Guys Hiding and Eating Molten Cake Sundaes,” features two Gen X aged men at a Sonic drive-thru. In the spot, the men hide from their wives in the backseat of their car so they can enjoy Molten Cake Sundaes without angering their spouses. This ad leverages humor and relatable characters/situations, a successful tactic among all audiences, but one that’s crucial and proven best practice in reaching Gen-Xers.

Methodology

As the leading provider of in-depth analysis and advertising effectiveness insights, Nielsen provides comprehensive insight into a commercial’s ability to be remembered and resonate with consumers. Nielsen TV Brand Effect measures the impact of commercials by surveying viewers exposed to the ad on TV. Only new ads that started airing in Q1 2013 (Jan. 1, 2013 to March 31, 2013) were considered. The Net Likeability Index was calculated by taking the net likability score (% of ad recallers who “strongly” or “somewhat” liked the ad) for each top ad and indexing versus the mean score of all new QSR and casual dining restaurants among Gen Xers (consumers aged 35 to 54) and Millennials (consumers ages 13-34).