McDonald’s easily led all restaurant companies in primetime airings and impressions last month. / McDonald's McDonald’s easily led all restaurant companies in primetime airings and impressions last month. / McDonald's

McDonald’s Spent $50 Million on TV Advertising in April

Note: Advertising strategy is an important part of the restaurant business. Skift Table continues to look at the top spenders on television ads for the previous month across the industry.

The answer to where restaurant chains should allocate TV advertising dollars in April was not as cut and dry as say the Super Bowl in February or the NCAA Tournament in March. But brands again stayed true to their marketing approaches of airing commercials during sports telecasts — this time the NBA and NHL playoffs, and the NFL Draft.

McDonald’s easily led all companies in TV ad spend last month for the second time in 2019, spending $50 million to promote its new any size $1 soft drink limited time offer, and mix and match 2 for $5 deal to customers.

The Illinois-based chain last topped the list in February when it introduced bacon as a new topping on its signature burgers. McDonald’s was pressed by analysts last week on its first quarter earnings call about when it would also delve into the growing plant-based food trend, which rival Burger King has tapped into with Impossible Foods. CEO Steve Easterbrook said McDonald’s is currently weighing additional complexities of launching its own product, while also assessing the sustainability of the consumer trend.

“Our menu teams are clearly paying close attention to it,” said Easterbrook. “They are discussing this amongst each other and with some of the options that are out there. So maybe more to come, but nothing much to say about it in the moment.”

Best Of The Rest

McDonald’s competitors Taco Bell, Burger King, Wendy’s, and Domino’s rounded out the top five, spending on average $18 million less over the period, according to iSpot.TV data.

Olive Garden, at number six, was the only casual dining chain represented in the top 10 in April. The company is historically one of a handful of restaurants that predominantly markets to women in efforts to lure families into its restaurants. Such is the case for Cracker Barrel and Chuck E. Cheese’s, among other chains. Olive Garden jumped seven spots to sixth during the month, increasing total TV ad spending by 41 percent to air more commercials in primetime slots during popular TV programs, such as The Voice and Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

On the Delivery front, Uber Eats significantly lowered TV advertising in April, down 71 percent to $2.5 million. The third-party service launched its first TV marketing campaign as an official partner of the NCAA Tournament last month. Market competitors DoorDash and Grubhub each spent more than $6 million on TV advertising over the same period.


BrandAiringsPrimetime AiringsEstimated SpendIndustry
McDonald’s196983343$50,611,793Quick Serve
Taco Bell166472969$36,062,552Quick Serve
Burger King198533427$33,774,641Quick Serve
Wendy’s100621850$26,856,300Quick Serve
Olive Garden102351951$19,633,034Casual Dining
Arby’s54301231$18,768,430Quick Serve
Little Caesars Pizza130032378$18,660,348Pizza
Subway57631174$18,309,729Quick Serve
Pizza Hut65191175$15,578,220Pizza

Information is provided by TV advertising attention analytics company

Most-Run Ads by Brand

Below are the top advertisements run by each brand in the top five of TV ad dollars spent in April 2019, along with a list of the most popular programs and networks chosen by chains for airtime.

1. McDonald’s

Top ad: Joy Included

Top NetworksTop Shows
ABCNBA Basketball
CBSAmerican Idol
ESPN2019 NFL Draft
NBC SportsThe Ten Commandments

2. Taco Bell

Top ad: Tasty Illusion

Top NetworksTop Shows
TNTNBA Basketball
ABCSouth Park
Comedy Central2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament

3. Burger King

Top ad: Warning

Top NetworksTop Shows
TNTNBA Basketball
Adult SwimAmerican Dad
ESPN2019 NFL Draft
ABCFamily Guy
TBSKeeping Up With the Kardashians

4. Domino’s

Top ad: Points for Pies: Medium Toppings

Top NetworksTop Shows
NBCNBA Basketball
FoxNHL Hockey
TNTThe Voice
CBSThe Big Bang Theory
UnivisionFamily Guy

5. Wendy’s

Top ad: Everything

Top NetworksTop Shows
CBS2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament
NBC SportsNHL Hockey
TNTNBA Basketball

Information is provided by TV advertising attention analytics company

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