QSR Brands: Digital Video Can Work Harder to Reach Your Customers

By Sean McCaffrey, President and CEO of GSTV

As hungry consumers hit the road this summer, QSR brands are spending big on digital video, particularly mobile, with high expectations of heavy foot traffic to match their spend.

According to a recent study by IAB, 59% of marketers’ digital ad budgets are allocated to digital video already and more than half of buyers plan to increase spending by 53% during the next year.

I’m amazed at how often I hear brands discuss with confidence their strategic media plans for reaching travelers. Often, they over-index on digital video, particularly via mobile, as the solution.

Millions of dollars later, the question remains: Are consumers seeing your videos in the context that best serves your restaurants? There’s a good chance they won’t be in the right place at the right time— or in the right mindset— to make your ROAS the best it could be.

Consider that some 70% of mobile device usage now takes place in the home, and those that do watch on-the-go are 17% more likely to skip mobile video ads (source: Pew; Magna and IPG Media Lab).

Though we may be experiencing the so-called Golden Age of Television, Millennials — who spend more money eating out than any other generation — aren’t watching when it needs to count for your QSR. Reporting from Restaurant Marketing Labs shows that trend will only balloon as the mobile-first, short(er) attention span Generation Z will surpass Millennials to become the most influential market by 2020.

So, where does that leave mobile video in terms of reaching on-the-go consumers? Rather than try to motivate a consumer to get off their couch for your new green juice or breakfast sandwich, it’s easier to tempt them on-the-go. But not necessarily always on their phones.

We set out to understand the habits of these consumers through a third-party study by MasterCard and Placed examining the consumer journey following a fuel transaction. Analysis found that within an hour of filling up, fuel customers transact 54% more and spend 46% more at QSR (vs. non-fuel buyers). QSR campaigns on GSTV have driven double-digit incremental lift in store visitation.

Digital video is clearly still popular with consumers, it just isn’t increasing the total time your consumer spends engaged with your brand. Location-targeted ads are the single most effective display advertising strategy for QSRs across online and mobile, according to Mobile Marketer. That study showed consumers were three times more likely to visit an advertiser’s store when they were served a geo-fenced ad nearby.

I always enjoyed marketing expert and author Tom Goodwin’s take on mobile, which is that it’s a behavior, not a channel. Behaviors are highly complex and difficult to track, making mobile video anything but the panacea many believe it to be. It’s an ever-evolving advertising puzzle for QSR. The key is to stay as nimble as your consumers.

QSRs need a more focused model for reaching an increasingly elusive and frenetic target audience. In my view, the best digital video campaigns for the industry will reach key consumers when they’re active, more likely to spend and — most importantly — when they are hungry.