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New data released today by Nielsen shows that the top restaurant ads for Millennials in the first quarter were from Subway, Taco Bell and Sonic.

For Gen Xers, the top three Q1 ads came from Papa John's, Olive Garden and KFC.

According to Nielsen, more than one-fourth of the world's advertising dollars are spent on fast-moving consumer goods like quick service (QSR) and casual dining restaurants. Ads that resonate with Millennials and Gen Xers are important, as the demographics tend to be heavy restaurant users.

Nielsen also reports that five ads resonated with both groups:

"Papa John's Jim Nantz ad and KFC's Game Day Couchgating ad were timely Super Bowl-themed spots that used celebrity spokespersons and humor to connect with Millennials and Gen-Xers.

KFC regularly uses humor to connect across audiences and succeeded in Q4 2012 with its "Hide and Seek" ad, which ranked sixth among Millennials and third among Gen-X.

Subway's FebruANY foot long ad and Taco Bell's Wow Locos Tacos ad both leveraged ownable concepts to keep audiences hungry for existing promotions."

The top 10 ads in Q1 for Gen Xers and their net likeability index include:

  1. Papa John's "Jim Nantz – Vote Heads or Tails," 207;
  2. Olive Garden, "2 for 25 Italian Dinner," 186;
  3. KFC, "Hide & Seek – Dad Eats Son's KFC Bites," 186;
  4. Sonic, "Guys Hiding & Eating Molten Cake Sundaes," 186;
  5. KFC, "GameDay Bucket Couchgating," 179;
  6. IHOP, "People Show Off Pancake Eating Techniques," 171;
  7. Papa John's, "Jim Nantz – Vote Heads or Tails," 171;
  8. Subway, "A Whole New Februany," 171;
  9. Taco Bell, "Wow – Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos," 171; and
  10. 10. Subway, "$5 Footlongs," 164.

The top 10 most-like restaurant ads among Millennials for Q1 include:

  1. Subway, "A Whole New Februany," 227;
  2. Taco Bell, "Wow – Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos," 227;
  3. Sonic, "Footlong Hotdogs" (30 seconds), 218;
  4. Sonic, "Footlong Hotdogs" (15 seconds), 191;
  5. KFC, "GameDay Bucket Couchgating," 173;
  6. KFC, "Hide & Seek – Dad Eats Son's KFC Bites," 173;
  7. Subway, "A Whole New Februany," 173;
  8. Dave & Buster's, "Eat Play Win Combo," 164;
  9. Papa John's, "Jim Nantz – Vote Heads or Tails," 164; and
  10. 10. Sonic, "Guy Gets Grounded – Sweet Potato Tots," 164.

Only new ads that started airing in Q1 2013 were considered. The Net Likeability Index is calculated by taking the net likability score (percentage of ad recallers who "strongly" or "somewhat" liked the ad) for each top ad and indexing versus the mean score of all new QSR and casual dining restaurants among both demographics.

Nielsen's summary states: "Winning ads among Millennials were notably humorous, upbeat and fast paced – all proven best practices to reach the age 13 to 24 population ... The remaining top ads among Gen Xers featured characters ages 35 to 54 in relatable situations."

Read more about marketing, branding and promotions.

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