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Radio And QSR Consumers Mirror Each Other.


New data on the fast food restaurant sector shows that podcasts and broadcast radio are ideal media platforms for the category. Yet there is a mismatch in ad budgets. Quick Serve Restaurant advertisers are significantly underinvested in radio, despite research showing it is a medium whose audience aligns closely with their customers.


According to Scarborough, 20% of all Americans are frequent QSR customers, meaning they have dined 10 or more times in the past month at a fast food restaurant. These heavy QSR patrons are younger, more likely to have kids and to be employed.


Not surprisingly, there is a relationship between miles traveled and how frequently people dine at QSRs: the more miles people clock, the more likely they are to eat at QSRs.


In what is perhaps a starker finding, Scarbrough found that the more time Americans spend with TV, the less likely they are to dine at QSRs. The heaviest TV viewers in America are 15% less likely to be frequent QSR restaurant consumers. “What that means for a quick service restaurant advertising on TV is most of your impressions are landing on people that are not big fast food consumers,” Pierre Bouvard, Chief Insights Officer of the Cumulus Media/Westwood One Audio Active Group, said in a 15-minute video summarizing the research. “Most of your impressions are reaching, unfortunately, light category viewers.”


The opposite is true for radio, which may explain why Wendy’s, McDonald’s and Taco Bell are big radio buyers. The more time Americans spend with the radio, the more frequently they're dining at quick service restaurants. In fact, Scarborough data show the very heaviest radio listeners in America are 23% more likely to be frequent fast food consumers. “The best customers for QSR are also the best customers of radio,” Bouvard says.


Lining up heavy TV viewers with heavy radio listeners reveals a startling statistic. There is a 45% difference between the fast food consumption of the heaviest radio listeners and that of the heaviest TV viewers. The logical conclusion, per Bouvard, is that “radio ad impressions are worth 45% more than TV ad impressions for the quick service restaurant category. This is simply because the heaviest consumers of fast food are radio listeners, not TV viewers,” he says.


Further correlations between audience profiles and QSR consumption show the profile of the frequent heavy QSR user looks nothing like a TV viewer but a lot like a heavy radio user.


Moreover, the primetime of fast food dining is 6am- 7pm, per MRI Simmons, which lines up with primetime for radio listening.


In light of these findings, Bouvard says the ideal allocation for a QSR ad campaign is devoting 54% of the budget to radio, and 46% to TV. Yet in reality, there is a massive mismatch in the category. For every $10 of fast food ad spending, about $9 goes to TV and about $1 goes to radio. “There's this massive misallocation where radio is underutilized and TV is dramatically over utilized,” Bouvard points out.


What’s more, the audience deliveries for QSR brands on TV are “collapsing, they're plummeting,” Bouvard continues.


Data from Nielsen Media Impact, the media planning tool used by major ad agencies and advertisers, documents this trend. The 18-49 reach TV delivered for six top QSR advertisers plummeted from 2021-2023. Wendy's plunged 29% and McDonald's tumbled 38%. On average for these six top brands, the reach delivered by their TV investment was down 34%.


Adding radio to the media plan generates significant incremental reach – an increase of 66% for McDonald’s and double for Dairy Queen. Bouvard argues that radio makes a QSR TV campaign better by “generating significant amounts of incremental reach in younger demographics.”


QSR advertisers will find hordes of their consumers listening to a wide diversity of radio formats and podcast genres. Per Nielsen Scarborough, podcasts in the society and culture, sports, business, science, and arts categories deliver large amounts of frequent quick service restaurant consumers. So do CHR, country, adult contemporary, urban, religious, Christian, news/talk and urban contemporary radio stations.


While advertisers seem fixated on sight, sound and motion for their campaign creative, research from ABX shows radio or audio ads test just as well as TV ads at one fourth the CPM. The radio ads tested at 89% of the effectiveness of TV at one-fourth the CPM.


In addition, Nielsen matched credit card data with radio ad exposure and found radio delivers a 3 to 1 ROI for fast feeders. Every dollar of radio advertising generated $3 of incremental sales directly as a result of the radio campaign.


Looking at a typical month of media for the top QSR brands, NMI found TV reach deliveries are falling off a cliff, down 34% for the top brands.


Bouvard’s Westwood One blog post makes the case that radio makes your TV buy better by generating significant amounts of incremental reach among younger people.


Says Bouvard, “This is how radio makes your TV better by generating significant increases in 18-24, 25-34 and 35-44 audience reach.”


Download the study HERE.

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