Why Is QSR Marketing So Bland?

Restaurant advertising, can you tell the difference.

We have all just finished the holiday period and most of us have had time to sit in front of the TV, being bombarded by ads for a host of fast food, QSR and mid scale dining choices. While watching these ads, the thing that came to mind was “when did we, as consumers, end up being content with the crap that advertisers dish up on a daily basis.

Every ad looks the same.

Get one happy family that looks like they are on uppers and stick them in a nondescript restaurant eating the same food as everyone else sells. The food arrives and huge smiles appear, little Johnny jumps up and down with glee, little Jenny’s eyes go so wide that we think she may be having a coronary and dad gives mum that knowing wink as if to say, ” Oh wow honey,  it was worth it to sell granny to the glue factory to pay for this family meal.” Yep this family definitely has it’s own meth lab!! Honestly,  have you or any of your family ever reacted to a QSR meal the way these actors do? If the answer is yes, you watch way too much TV.

It must be tough for the agencies to differentiate brands when the food is almost the same in every food franchise and each company insists on having the same architect design and build almost identical restaurants no matter what the concept. The exterior colors for most restaurants built in the last 5 years come in a range of light beige all the way through dark beige. Wow, how hard must it be for the consumer to chose!!!

I was watching a movie over the holiday and fell asleep on the couch while a QSR ad was on. When I opened my eyes the same ad was still on and I was sure that I had just dozed for a second or two until my daughter informed me that I had been snoring for at least 10 minutes and had been awakened by her left foot forcefully impacting my right shin so she could hear the rest of the movie. I joked that it was a coincidence that I had awakened to the same TV ad and was informed of my stupidity by my ever vigilant daughter, no, it was not the same ad or even the same company and ” don’t you know they all look the same!” Well, at least my suspicions were confirmed, The food industry ads suck big time!

So what are the advertisers and ad companies thinking, are they so afraid of upsetting even one person in the target market that only the blandest of ads ever get to air. Are they so afraid of political correctness that every ad has to have at least one of every ethnic group in the world featured somewhere in the ad. I am sure I saw a Mongolian yak herder in a recent Arby’s ad! Is it the fault of the financial crisis? Are we so embedded in deep discounts that the only thing that matters is getting the current deal across 15 times in 30 seconds. So, it seems they have created only one ad in the last 3 years and they just change the voice over and tags to suit the deal and advertiser.

Is it just the US.

Is this only an American phenomena? Are other countries still making good food service ads? I recently watched a McDonald’s ad from India that featured an attractive young lady showing lots of cleavage to distract a young man from his burger. A little bit of bumping and grinding was there as well. This would not be allowed in the US!!!!! It would offend far to many people, religious and community groups would be up in arms. the head of Chick-fil-a would faint.

I will try to find some good food ads from differing countries that I think merit inclusion for whatever reason, maybe just because they are a little different. They may not be in English or you may not quite understand what the hell they are trying to get across but they will be interesting.


Here is the first,

Food Trucks – A Growing Trend

Food Trucks are becoming the “In Thing” in many major cities, with the range and types of food available matching that of many restaurants world wide. Combine the choice of food with the ease of purchase and nominal price and you have a growing trend that should be around for many years to come.

Food trucks have been around for ever but were normally confined to the old favorites like hot dogs, burgers, and of course ice cream. Now, you can name any country in the world and there is probably a food truck selling one or more of their hand held delicacies from a small window in some city near you.

I still remember my first food truck experience.  It was three o’clock in the morning and I was feeling a bit under the weather. It probably had something to do with the large amount of beer, wine and spirits that I had consumed over the last several hours at a downtown pub in the heart of Adelaide, Australia.

I was still in my late teens and at the time was prone to do these sorts of things along with all of my friends. Luckily I have grown out of this habit.

There is a tradition in many Australian cities near the main drinking areas to have a food truck that specializes in pot pies, yep, pot pies!! Now the pot pies themselves are to be found in every deli and lunch place in the country, what makes these “pie carts” as they are called, different is what they add to the pot pies. Most of the pies are beef and gravy cocooned in a light fluffy pastry. When ordered from a pie cart they put in a bowl and cover it in green pea soup with a dollop of ketchup added to the top.

Are you still with me! Too much to drink, feeling woozy and looking at a meat pie covered in green pea soup and ketchup. This is a kill or cure hangover remedy!! Well actually it is a cure, cure remedy. If you eat it and manage to keep it down for more than ten minutes, you will feel better just because of the food in your stomach. If you eat it and lose it, you will feel better just because you have purged the booze from your system. Win, win.

If you happen to be in Adelaide, Australia late at night try The Pie Cart right outside the casino in the old railway station. You don’t have to have the pea soup! If you are in Sydney try Harry’s Café de Wheels in the theater district right next to China Town, both are worth a try.

More on food trucks and street food in my next blog.