Successful holiday restaurant advertising


Restaurant marketers looking to tap into consumers’ holiday spirit would be served best by using seasonal tie-ins along with a brand’s long-term marketing message, according to a new study from marketing research and consulting firm Ace Metrix.

IHOP and Outback Steakhouse are two recent examples of chains that ran holiday-themed ads that scored well with surveyed consumers, said Los Angeles-based Ace Metrix.

The firm’s vice president, Jack McKee, advises restaurant chains to position themselves as a shopper’s favorite foodservice choice rather than a favored holiday destination.

“If you do a holiday-theme commercial, it has to be relevant to the general product and value proposition of your restaurant,” McKee said. “You can’t do a holiday-theme ad for its own sake. The holiday tie-ins in IHOP’s and Outback’s ads are very consistent with their standard advertising and branding.”

AceMetrix uses a proprietary Ace Score — based on how watchable and persuasive consumers rate the commercials in daily surveys — to determine how well television ads resonate. Both IHOP and Outback Steakhouse’s Ace Scores each tallied above the restaurant industry norm of 579 out of a possible 950.

The holiday IHOP commercial highlighted the chain’s three varieties of Holiday Hotcakes for $4.99: white-chocolate chip mint, sweet eggnog and pumpkin praline. The person eating the pancakes and later giving an IHOP gift card to his mail carrier turns out to be Ebenezer Scrooge. IHOP’s commercial’s Ace Score of 604 was the highest of any restaurant industry holiday ad, McKee said.

Watch IHOP’s commercial; story continues below

At Outback, the brand ran a holiday-theme commercial for the third year in a row, and the spot is the highest-performing holiday ad the brand has ever executed, according to Ace Metrix data. The commercial tallied an Ace Score of 600. The ad features a sailboat with Christmas lights and people wearing Santa hats while cooking sirloin and shrimp over a fire. It highlights $11.99 dinner combinations.

Watch Outback’s commercial here; story continues on next page