Radio Advertising Feeds Fast Food Restaurant Success


A recent Nielsen Scarborough study highlights a significant opportunity for fast food restaurants to better target their core demographic through radio advertising. As an industry that leans heavily into TV marketing, quick-service restaurants are missing out.

Nielsen reveals that frequent fast food patrons are predominantly younger than the average US adult, is more likely to have children, be employed, and log numerous miles in their vehicles. Considering radio’s ubiquity in the automobile, it’s not surprising to discover that heavy AM/FM radio listeners are 23% more likely to visit QSRs more than ten times a month.

In stark contrast, heavy TV viewers are 15% less likely to frequent fast food chains, which makes sense – the more time spent in house, the more the odds of needing to go out for a convenient bite drop.

QSR visitation grows
(Westwood One/Cumulus Media Audio Active Group)

Despite these consumption patterns, QSR brands still heavily favor television ad spend over radio.

This is despite AM/FM radio’s proven effectiveness in reaching the QSR target audience, especially during “fast-food prime time” when radio usage surpasses TV. The study points out a significant mismatch in media spending, with 92% allocated to TV and only 8% to AM/FM radio, according to Vivvix.

Further decline in fast food TV ad reach, averaging a 34% drop, showcases the urgent need for a shift in strategy. Nielsen Media Impact analysis supports this, demonstrating that AM/FM radio can significantly bolster QSR TV campaigns by providing a substantial incremental reach, particularly among younger demographics.

For instance, adding over the air radio to Wendy’s media mix increased its monthly reach among 18-49 year-olds by 78%.

QSR incremental reach
(Westwood One/Cumulus Media Audio Active Group)

ABX’s creative testing further supports the efficacy of AM/FM showing fast food radio ads perform at 89% of the effectiveness of TV ads but at a quarter of the cost. Additionally, Nielsen sales lift studies illustrate a compelling return on investment for AM/FM radio ads, with a $3 increase in sales for every dollar spent on radio advertising.

Detailed results can be found in this week’s Westwood One/Cumulus Media Audio Active Group blog.


  1. This is great and positive information! However, are there any national, regional, or local spot buys placed directly with radio stations? Or is it all just network spot buys? Curious to know from anyone who works in advertising. Thanks.


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