How the Fast Food Industry is Shaping OOH

burger king billboard

By and large, the out-of-home (OOH) industry is an effective advertising medium for virtually any brand, company, or product if the ad is targeted properly, of course. So, no matter the industry you operate out of, each OOH medium- whether that is a billboard, digital programmatic advertisement, or a truck side advertisement, can all have positive benefits that boosting brand or product awareness, click-through rates, or the all-coveted conversions depending on the KPI’s you’ve outlined when planning your campaign. Without question, however, the fast-food industry has been one of the most active members in OOH advertising and has played a significant role in the evolution of the medium over the years. Let’s take a look at what some of the major players in the industry have been up to and discuss the unique features OOH offers quick-serve restaurants of all sizes—not just the big guys.

McDonald’s is Dominating the OOH Market

Without question, Mcdonald’s has proven to be a major contender in the OOH advertising medium. For context, Mcdonald’s is the single largest spender on OOH media on a global scale. With a slew of widely successful campaigns under their belt—from their GPS-style billboards to their billboard that actually grew real lettuce to spell out “Fresh Salads”, Mcdonald’s has revolutionized not just fast-food outdoor media, but outdoor media as a whole. Time and time again they introduce creative visuals that are able to deliver high-quality, awareness-focused messages whilst integrating new technologies that work in synchronicity with their brand story.

Other Fast-Food OOH Leaders

Other fast-food joints like Wendy’s and Burger King are no stranger to the use of billboards and outdoor media either. You’re hard-pressed to walk out into a heavy foot traffic spot without noticing one of their flashy banners. Burger King most notably, created an augmented reality digital out-of-home (DOOH) campaign coined “Burn That Ad”, allowing their audience to literally burn competitors’ ads through a mobile app. Rafael Donato, Creative VP of the BK agency commented about the project, “Augmented reality is a fascinating tool. And when combined with a little pyrotechnics, is even better. With ‘Burn That Ad,’ we hacked the competition by leveraging our biggest advantage, which is fire.”

In response to the rising competition, Wendy’s erected a massive DOOH billboard in Times Square. In an attempt to advertise their breakfast offerings, Wendy’s cleverly made jabs at their rivals (AKA McDonald’s and Burger King) with comments such as, “The best thing about McDonald’s breakfast is that if you don’t eat the biscuit immediately you can wait two hours and use it to break a window”, and, “Wendy’s is making breakfast now, meanwhile Burger King is still trying to figure out this whole ‘lunch’ thing everyone’s talking about”, showcasing the friendly competition between the three fast-food chains while also drilling in on their brand’s presence. 

But of course, how could we forget Chick-Fil-a and their iconic “Eat Mor Chikin” OOH campaign introduced in 1995 that catapulted them to their worldwide success. So successful that is, that they’ve stuck to it for 26 years! The ad depicts two rebel cows that seemingly hand-painted—or hoof-painted, for that matter, an “Eat Mor Chikin” sign. Plastered on billboards, water towers, and any outdoor surface that fits the bill, Chick-fil-a doesn’t consider any square foot off-limits for this self-preservation message.

Hyperlocal is The Ticket to Success for Fast Food

One feature of OOH advertising that serves the fast-food industry particularly well is the fact that they cater to local customers. In the case of a person deciding on where to grab a quick bite, location is the number one deciding factor. Most people don’t decide where they are going to eat until right before they do, and this is especially true in the case of fast-food. Therefore, planting a big billboard, steps away from your front door is like basically grabbing the hand of a hungry patron and saying, ‘Come with me’. This is why billboards and other OOH formats are great for reaching people when they are out and about deciding on where to eat.

Geofencing Through Location Data

Geofencing is another indispensable feature OOH offers fast-food chains. OOH has the capability to work in unison with locational data to provide highly targeted, location-based data tracking to show only the most relevant potential customers your ad through their mobile device. Many billboards are now equipped with geofences that allow mobile retargeting.

What is geofencing you might ask? QSR Magazine defines it as, “invisible geographic fences placed around a billboard or other OOH format. Once they pass through the geofence, consumers will see ads on their device based on what geofence they were in.”

This tracking technology has some pretty great advantages—for one, targeting accuracy can be measured as high as 97% in many cases. For context, in comparison to social media advertising—the marketing method gaining quite the fan base in recent years, tracking users has become more difficult as privacy settings are constantly changing. We can look at the recent experiment ran by Google Ad Manager in January 2021, where they disabled cookies on a small portion of users to see the impact on ROI for advertisers. The results of the experiment were shocking—“ad revenues fell by a whopping 52 percent for the top 500 global publishers, with a median decline of 64.5 percent per publisher”. In the recent months since the report, more privacy settings have been tightened causing a domino effect on decreased ROI and user tracking.

OOH Campaigns Drive Mobile Traffic

In many ways, geofencing lends itself to driving mobile traffic as well, which is another prime feature that is provided through OOH advertising for the fast-food industry. Think about the previous example this way; when a customer is walking to their destination, they may pass by the Chick-fil-a “Eat Mor Chikin” billboard. Soon after, they may check an app on their phone to coincidentally see that Chick-fil-a is offering them a 20% coupon or some meal deal. Well, this is actually no coincidence at all and is exactly what geofencing is. It is said that customers are 17% more likely to engage with a campaign on their mobile devices after spotting an OOH ad, making geofencing a useful tool for any business looking to capitalize on quick-serve customers through their mobile device.

An Adjustable Ad Budget

Without question, cost— no matter the size of your business, is always considered the deciding factor when mapping out your advertising plan. In the case of quick-serve restaurants, this is ever-apparent. While the chains discussed in this article have been big names, there are still so many small, local fast-food restaurants that could benefit from OOH advertising; particularly those with smaller advertising budgets. That’s why outdoor media, on top of all the mentioned advantages, serves this industry so well—because it’s far more affordable than other traditional media such as TV, radio, and print.

Of course, the prices can vary depending on how much ground you would want to cover, but in the case of a local pizza joint that is looking to gain foot traffic from their neighbourhood, a poster on a bus shelter is surprisingly affordable. Moreover, when looking at cost-per-thousand (CPM) impressions, outdoor media blows every other type of advertising out of the water, providing the best value. If you look at the graph below, you’ll see that “The cost per thousand impressions (CPM) for outdoor advertising ranges from 6 cents to $8.99. When stacked up against other forms of advertising media that start at $8.99/thousand and can get as high as $58.00/thousand,” making it easy to see why OOH is considered a high-value medium at a low overall cost.  

Final Words

All in all, OOH advertising is a fundamental tool for most businesses across all industries. Whether you’re looking to build awareness, drive conversions, or looking for a creative (and effective) way to advertise while keeping costs low, the outdoor medium is, no question, the preferred candidate. In the case of the quick-service industry, in particular, OOH provides features that lend especially well and do so at a low cost on average.

If you’re a small, local restaurant looking to boost foot traffic, or a multi-billion-dollar chain like McDonald’s looking for creative ways to make an impact, there’s a reason why all these fast-food spots are choosing traditional OOH methods. So, if the outdoor world is your canvas, how are you going to paint it? 

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