Screenshot of Domino's Pizzas's Pizza Night Hero campaign. / YouTube Screenshot of Domino's Pizzas's Pizza Night Hero campaign. / YouTube

Domino’s Outspent Rival Restaurants on TV Advertising in December

Note: With advertising being such a large part of the restaurant business, Skift Table continues to look at the top spenders on television ads at the end of each month across all sectors of the industry.

Airing commercials during football and basketball games was a clear strategy for restaurants again in December, just like it was the previous month. Just two editions into our marketing roundups, it’s becoming clearer that this trend will likely continue through the end of the NBA season in June.

But as is customary in December, television marketing dollars were also spent on airtime during reruns of classic holiday movies like “A Christmas Story” and live New Year’s Eve shows hosted by once-famous celebrities.

Non-sports programming additionally continued to draw the attention of top marketers, with many spots running during popular comedies, game shows, and adult-oriented cartoons.

Inside the Numbers

At just under $40 million, Domino’s Pizza outpaced all other restaurants in TV ad spending last month, up from fourth position in November. The jump is credited to Domino’s emphasis on running commercials during primetime slots throughout the month, doing so more than 5,000 times.

The rest of the chains rounding out the top five remained consistent with last month’s results, with the exception of Subway, which replaced Pizza Hut.

The pizza chain’s parent company YUM! Brands dominated TV airwaves again in December. Each of its brands, including Taco Bell and KFC, were in the top 10. The restaurant group spent a combined $75 million to predominantly target males aged 35 to 54, according to data.

The next closest restaurant parent groups by money spent were Restaurant Brands International at $42 million (Burger King and Popeye’s only) and Inspire Brands at $21 million, comprised of Arby’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, and recently acquired Sonic Drive-in.

Other highlights include Olive Garden cracking the top 10 after no casual dining restaurant did so previously. Food delivery partner GrubHub was also the only non-restaurant company in the top 20, spending just north of $6 million. Rival company DoorDash announced Monday it would begin airing its first national TV campaign through the end of the month, in efforts to woo customers onto its platform.

Information is provided by TV advertising attention analytics company


BrandAiringsPrimetime AiringsEstimated SpendIndustry
McDonald’s12,9121,876$36,405,046Quick Serve
Taco Bell13,9612,634$35,492,855Quick Serve
Burger King17,9173,232$34,746,312Quick Serve
Subway6,6551,295$23,742,046Quick Serve
Pizza Hut8,1491,349$22,313,897Pizza
Wendy’s13,8292,577$22,209,533Quick Serve
KFC5,9311,114$17,935,871Quick Serve
Little Caesars Pizza12,3882,135$14,203,021Pizza
Olive Garden7,5241,395$11,802,317Casual Dining

Most-Run Ads by Brand

Below are the top five spending restaurant brands in December 2018, including a video of the top advertisement each brand ran, as well as the top five programs and the top five networks each brand used.

1. Domino’s Pizza

Top Ad: Pizza Night Hero

Top ProgramTop Network
NFL FootballFOX
College FootballESPN
The OfficeNFL Network
Family GuyComedy Central
Wheel of FortuneHGTV

2. McDonald’s

Top Ad: Crank Things Up

Top ProgramTop Network
NFL FootballFOX
College FootballABC
NBA BasketballCBS
New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan SeacrestESPN
A Christmas StoryNFL Network

3. Taco Bell

Top Ad: Sunset Heart Hands

Top ProgramTop Network
College FootballFOX
NFL FootballESPN
College BasketballABC
NBA BasketballCBS
South ParkVH1

4. Burger King

Top Ad: Choose

Top ProgramTop Network
NFL FootballFOX
NBA BasketballESPN
South ParkDiscovery Channel
RidiculousnessComedy Central

5. Subway

Top Ad: Happy Place

Top ProgramTop Network
NFL FootballNBC
Fox’s New Year’s Eve with Steve HarveyFOX
Football Night in AmericaCBS
American DadNBC Sports
The OfficeAdult Swim

Information is provided by TV advertising attention analytics company

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