Top ads mix food focus with value

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Casual-dining restaurants dominated a study of the first quarter’s most effective TV commercials, as measured by Ace Metrix.

The advertising research firm ranked all restaurant industry commercials based on its proprietary Ace Score, which measures how persuasive and watchable advertisements are based on ratings from surveyed viewers.

Casual-dining chains accounted for seven of the 10 top-scoring commercials that debuted from January to March.

Most of the spots broadened their appeal to several demographic groups, especially women, by incorporating food photography and other cues for food quality, as well as low price points conveying a value message, said Jonathan Symonds, executive vice president of marketing of Ace Metrix.

“Advertisers have found a solid framework that’s working well: Strong creative built around food shots, coupled with a strong value message,” Symonds said.

Olive Garden had three commercials in Ace Metrix’s list of the 10 ads with the highest Ace Score in the first quarter, including the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, with Ace Scores of 653 and 643, respectively. The restaurant industry’s average Ace Score in the first quarter was 579 out of a possible 950.

Olive Garden’s top-scoring ad promoted its 3 Course Italian Dinner for $12.95.

Olive Garden’s No. 2 ad, touting Baked Pasta Romanas, and another spot for its Passion for Parmesan promotion, which earned the No. 9 ranking with a 628 Ace Score, spent the bulk of the ads’ 30-second duration discussing only the menu items over food shots. In each commercial, however, Olive Garden tacked on a value proposition with a quick promotion for one of the chain’s $6.95 offers: Chicken and Potato Florentine Soup or the Create Your Own Lunch menu.

Watch the commercials; story continues below

Applebee’s and LongHorn Steakhouse took a similar approach to mixing the commercials’ food focus with a value proposition.