The application of mobile, location-based marketing amplified McDonald's messaging in tandem with traditional billboards.

Restaurants today face growing competition, and driving traffic—literally—to stores is one of the biggest issues facing the industry. Some restaurant chains are finding success by embracing technology-forward marketing strategies.

Billboards have been driving customers to quick-service locations since the 1860s. Today, they continue to be impactful reminders of where to eat on the road. But because contemporary consumers are inundated with even more information from so many channels, getting their attention requires a bit more reinforcement.

By partnering with navigation apps, such as WAZE, and using those platforms to target messaging relative to consumers’ real-time physical location, restaurants are more likely to bring in traffic.

For brands like McDonald’s, with locations strategically positioned off the interstates, attracting travelers is key. For this reason, McDonald’s partnered with WAZE to reinforce its billboard messaging and drive more customers to store locations.

In Southern California, McDonald’s shared its billboard locations with Waze, and then employed Waze digital billboards, also known as Zero Speed Takeover units, to target drivers with reinforced messaging.

With WAZE, a takeover advertisement works like a digital billboard, but with a call to action that allows drivers to navigate to the nearest advertised location. When the app detects that a driver has stopped the car at a traffic light, a notification pops up with a restaurant promotion and a message, such as “Drive there now. This stop will only take you 3 minutes off your current route.” Users then have the option to select turn-by-turn directions to the restaurant location nearest to them.

Over the course of an eight-week takeover campaign, running from early October through mid-November, McDonald’s received more than 8,400 navigations to promoted locations and 6.4 million impressions.

“Integrating the targeting technology of Waze with McDonald’s billboard locations harnessed the power of combining out of home (OOH) and mobile media to enhance engagement with the consumer, while providing metrics of success and attribution—something with which OOH has grappled for years,” says Ryan Laul, president of Outdoor Media Group.

As consumers become ever-more mobile, constantly on the go, it is critical that restaurants develop new strategies for getting them in the door as McDonald’s did with Waze. Providing highly targeted, relevant information to consumers who have a specific need for a brand’s product is an effective way for chains to engage with consumers and bring them in at critical times.

Surveys have shown that consumers age 20-49 are more likely to consume fast food on any given day, and adults age 18-35 are more inclined to purchase fast food while traveling. Time spent on navigation apps make up approximately 6 percent of younger users’ (millennials and Gen Z) total smartphone use—plus, they’re driving more than ever. A 2016 study by AAA showed that millennials are taking more road trips than any other age group. And every minute, there are over 500 navigations to quick-service restaurants on Waze, according to the brand’s proprietary data from 2018.

“Waze is able to extend the reach of out-of-home and leverages digital technology to move people to brick and mortar businesses,” says Todd Palatnek, Waze Out of Home Business Lead.

By targeting consumers who are on the move within the mobile apps they are using, like digital billboards on Waze, alongside physical billboards on the road, brands can successfully provide the most relevant and impactful messaging for real-time decision-making. Providing navigation app-users with turn-by-turn directions to store locations is extremely helpful for the users themselves and more likely to convert traffic for restaurants.

By Peggy Carouthers and Erin McPherson

Sponsored Content