Fast-Food Advertising: Why Radio Should Be Lovin' It.


Here's something to chew on: not only are AM/FM radio listeners frequent fast-food restaurant diners, radio is being underutilized while TV is overused, given its massive reach in younger demos. These are among the research findings reported in Westwood One's latest “Everyone's Listening” blog.


“While COVID has altered many shopping and retail habits, visits to quick service restaurants have roared back,” Cumulus Media Chief Insights Officer and Audio Active Group President Pierre Bouvard says, citing research showing visits to fast-food restaurants now exceed pre-pandemic levels. That's good news for radio because fast-food diners put more miles on their vehicles, high-mileage drivers are more likely to be heavy AM/FM listeners, who in turn are frequent fast-food diners.


As a result, radio campaigns for quick service restaurants are 33% more likely than TV to reach fast-food diners, according to Nielsen Scarborough. That's driven (if you will) by their research showing that compared to AM/FM listeners, heavy TV viewers travel less miles in their cars and are infrequent fast-food diners.


On top of that, Scarborough USA data shows the demographic profile of fast-food diners is closer to that of heavy AM/FM listeners and heavy internet users, compared to heavy TV viewers, who are much older, less employed and much less likely to have kids. What PlaceIQ location analytics defines as “fast-food prime time,” 6am to 7pm, is when Americans spend more time – 57% of media usage – with AM/FM radio than TV, which is at 43%. Yet, 94% of the ad dollars go to TV while radio gets just 6% – a “major mismatch,” Bouvard says.


Not only does the blog show how a fast-food media campaign generated a 45% increase in adults 18-49 reach using AM/FM in addition to TV, but radio generally reaches 29% more of this demo and 44% more adults 18-34. What's more, AM/FM radio ads test at 90% of the effectiveness of TV at one-fourth the CPM. “The old myth is that TV creative is better than AM/FM radio because it has 'sight, sound, and motion',” Bouvard says. “In fact, the 'sound only' audience for TV ads is just as big as 'eyes on glass' viewership. For many, the TV advertising experience is an AM/FM radio ad that is heard while gazing at the cell phone.”


Another Nielsen study cited shows AM/FM radio ads generate a +6% increase in total quick service restaurant buyers and a $3-to-$1 return on investment, suggesting that by spending more with radio, fast-food places are more likely to...have it their way.

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