Big Brands’ Social Ads Are Missing One Big Segment – And It’s Easier To Fix Than You Think

By Greg Wester, SVP at Digital Turbine

The lion’s share of mobile advertising dollars still goes to social media. However, new research suggests that brands need to rethink that due to a shift in mobile usage. Every leading QSR brand researched had campaigns that under-delivered ads to the same large user segment – specifically customers that play mobile games longer than they use social media.

As shiny as social media seems, it’s not the silver bullet. There’s a need for a more balanced and informed approach that allocates resources strategically across various channels. When implemented effectively, this can lead to significant improvements in reaching key members of the QSR audience that are otherwise hard to engage.

Social Media isn’t Everyone’s #1 Media

Data experts dove into the media consumption habits of QSR brand consumers, tracking over 23,000 consumers and their media consumption habits. It separated people into two groups: those who spend more time on social media and YouTube and those who spend more time playing mobile games.

It unearthed a notable trend: while consumers widely use social media, it is not the dominant media for all consumers. The study found that nearly 40% of QSR customers spend more time playing mobile games than on Social Media and YouTube combined. For these “mobile gaming-first” consumers, games are their primary entertainment and social activity, not platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube.

The amount of time spent on an activity indicates its importance and relevance to a person’s life. For many mobile gamers, games’ immersive and engaging nature means they lose track of time and can play for hours at a stretch. This level of engagement is difficult for social platforms to match. Additionally, games provide social interaction and community features that fulfill needs traditionally met by social media.

For advertisers, understanding different consumer segments and where they spend their meaningful time is key to effective marketing. While social platforms reach many, this study highlights an important group for which social is not the primary media environment. Brands risk missing these audiences by using social-only advertising strategies.

Are Social Ad Campaigns Falling Short in Engaging Mobile Gamers?

The study also found that social ad campaigns are inefficient at reaching a significant portion of their customer base – those who spend most of their time playing mobile games rather than using social media.

Social media users see a QSR ad every eight days, while the mobile gaming group only sees one every 17 days. As a result, brands are under-investing in mobile games where a substantial chunk of their customers spend most of their daily media time.

This difference in reach is significant as social media-first users and mobile gaming-first users average about the same weekly usage of QSR restaurants, apps, and websites. With such similar behaviors, the gaming segment should be considered an equally valuable target for QSR brands.

Brands must diversify their media mix to target mobile gamers where they already are, or they will miss opportunities to reach and influence a large portion of their customer base. Rethinking ad strategies and investing some budget in mobile gaming could unlock significant incremental reach.

QSR Brands Are Missing the Mobile Gaming Opportunity 

On the other hand, major QSR brands exposed mobile gaming-first consumers to 61% fewer ads over the past year. For every two-and-a-half ads social media-first audience encountered, mobile gaming-first audiences only saw one.

This lack of ad visibility among mobile gaming-first consumers represents a missed opportunity for brands. Despite nearly 40% of QSR consumers spending more time on mobile games than social media or YouTube, advertising fails to reach this sizable market segment. Neglecting mobile gaming-first audiences results in squandered potential revenue and limits the reach of campaigns.

Among major QSRs, none displayed ads to the mobile gaming-first audience as frequently as to the social media and YouTube-first group. While leading brands performed better than average, they still fell short in reaching mobile gaming-first audiences adequately. Chick-fil-A exhibited the highest exposure of social ads to the mobile gaming-first audience yet still showed 23% fewer ads to that demographic. Wendy’s managed to show 38% fewer, Pizza Hut 39%, Starbucks 41%, Taco Bell 42%, and McDonald’s 46%.

Despite having the resources to reach large consumer bases, even the largest brands are underperforming in reaching the mobile gaming-first audience. QSR companies need to rethink their media mix and allocate their ad budgets to better target mobile gamers, as this is where an important segment of their customers spend most of their time. By optimizing their media mix, brands could unlock a significant boost in reach. For instance, QSR brands that more judiciously allocate their resources and value the mobile gaming-first audience could increase their incremental reach by up to 20%.

About the Author

Greg Wester, SVP Marketing, at Digital Turbine, leads Consumer Research, PR, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing functions at Digital Turbine. Greg has worked in mobile and digital/interactive media for +30 years, bringing a penchant for numerical storytelling to sales enablement and market awareness building efforts.