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

Danni Santana
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.


Brand Airings Primetime Airings Estimated Spend Industry
McDonald’s 19698 3343 $50,611,793 Quick Serve
Taco Bell 16647 2969 $36,062,552 Quick Serve
Burger King 19853 3427 $33,774,641 Quick Serve
Domino’s 20148 4638 $32,269,200 Pizza
Wendy’s 10062 1850 $26,856,300 Quick Serve
Olive Garden 10235 1951 $19,633,034 Casual Dining
Arby’s 5430 1231 $18,768,430 Quick Serve
Little Caesars Pizza 13003 2378 $18,660,348 Pizza
Subway 5763 1174 $18,309,729 Quick Serve
Pizza Hut 6519 1175 $15,578,220 Pizza

Information is provided by TV advertising attention analytics company iSpot.tv.

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 Networks Top Shows
ABC NBA Basketball
NBC NHL Hockey
CBS American Idol
ESPN 2019 NFL Draft
NBC Sports The Ten Commandments

2. Taco Bell

Top ad: Tasty Illusion

Top Networks Top Shows
TNT NBA Basketball
ABC South Park
Comedy Central 2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament
Fox Ridiculousness

3. Burger King

Top ad: Warning

Top Networks Top Shows
TNT NBA Basketball
Adult Swim American Dad
ESPN 2019 NFL Draft
ABC Family Guy
TBS Keeping Up With the Kardashians

4. Domino’s

Top ad: Points for Pies: Medium Toppings

Top Networks Top Shows
NBC NBA Basketball
Fox NHL Hockey
TNT The Voice
CBS The Big Bang Theory
Univision Family Guy

5. Wendy’s

Top ad: Everything

Top Networks Top Shows
CBS 2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament
NBC Sports NHL Hockey
TNT NBA Basketball
ESPN Ridiculousness
ABC SportsCenter

Information is provided by TV advertising attention analytics company iSpot.tv.

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