Restaurant commercials excel in 2Q

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Though it is too soon to know restaurant brands’ second-quarter sales, new information from marketing research firm Ace Metrix shows that the foodservice industry’s performance in TV advertising improved in the latest quarter, with several brands standing out.

Ace Metrix ranks advertisements by their Ace Score, the firm's proprietary measurement of how watchable and persuasive an advertisement is based on surveys of American consumers. Of the 50 commercials during the second quarter with the highest Ace Scores, 18 of the spots came from 12 restaurant brands, said Jonathan Symonds, executive vice president of marketing for Ace Metrix.

“The big number I took away from this research was the preponderance of QSR and casual-dining brands in the top 50 advertisers, which was higher than usual,” Symonds said. “That’s somewhat a function of the economy. Consumers’ optimism is growing ever so slightly, and one way to reflect that is through small luxuries — dining out being one of them.”

Olive Garden and Pizza Hut each had three commercials in the top 50 for the second quarter, while Applebee’s and Dairy Queen had two. Restaurant chains with one ad in the top 50 included Bob Evans, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Friendly’s, Golden Corral, LongHorn Steakhouse, Red Lobster, Ruby Tuesday and Subway.

Pizza Hut scores with the P’zolo

When Pizza Hut introduced its P’zolo sandwich in June, its public-relations team executed an obvious shot across the bow of Subway by giving the item away on two subway cars of Chicago’s mass-transit system in what it called a “Subway Takeover.”

While the item’s TV commercial did not mention Subway by name, its competitive aim at the world’s largest sandwich chain was clear, Symonds said. Pizza Hut garnered an Ace Score of 644 out of 950 with the P’zolo ad.

“This was a direct shot at a competitor, and it was really well done,” Symonds said. “For Pizza Hut, if you’re going to have a new-product introduction, it has to be a good ad, and they succeeded in taking on Subway in that regard. In the [survey responses] for that ad, Subway gets mentioned 3 percent of the time, which is a pretty high number considering that it’s a Pizza Hut ad.”

Importantly, one of the sub-ratings that contribute to the overall Ace Score was very high, Symonds said. The P’zolo ad’s “change score,” which measures whether viewers think the brand is headed in a different direction, was 712, which was far above the industry norm for that metric, he said.

Pizza Hut also advertised its $10 Dinner Box and several other limited-time offers during the quarter and performed consistently well, he added. The chain’s 596 average Ace Score for 16 ads tied the average scores for IHOP and T.G.I. Friday’s, and trailed only nine other brands’ overall performance for the quarter.

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