Wendy’s exec: Better mobile-targeted ads trump Facebook’s dwindling organic reach


Wendy’s uses social media to incentivize customers

NEW YORK A top Wendys executive at the Mcommerce Summit: State of Mobile Commerce 2014 claimed that Facebooks shrinking organic reach opens up a new set of targeted advertising opportunities that are geared towards mobile.

The Moving the Fast-Feeder from a TV-centric Outreach to Encompass Mobile, Social and Digital session, the Wendys executive outlined the brands shift towards digital in the past couple of years. Social platforms, specifically Facebook, play a big role in how Wendys incentivizes consumers with rewards and time-sensitive deals to drive in-store foot traffic.

We use mobile, social targeting to do that, so we deliver that message in that one hour 30-minute window before the [purchase] decision is made, said Brandon Rhoten, vice president of digital and social at Wendys, Dublin, OH. We buy audiences across major networks.

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Platforms like Facebook are moving from truly organic distribution platforms to being media platforms, and as that happens, thats actually a benefit if I want to target people and not just rely on this free, digital thing that comes when you use organic distribution. We buy it is the short answer, and we will continue to buy it.

Social is mobile
According to Mr. Rhoten, more than 90 percent of Wendys social media traffic comes from mobile, which is where the company prioritizes its digital spend.

These ad buys on social networks are made under the assumption that the platforms are less intrusive than the typical banner ads that publishers have come to rely on.

In fact, Mr. Rhoten went so far as to say that Wendys does not buy road block ads or ad placements where consumers have not agreed to interact with advertising.

Take Hulu, for example. Consumers expect to watch a commercial in exchange for watching a TV show, so Wendys is more inclined to buy an ad on the video streaming service.

Wendys social media strategy has also changed significantly in the past few years, thanks in large part to mobile.

In the past, Wendys used to post merchandise-heavy content on Facebook. Instead, the brand found that consumers wanted to share pictures of food or talk about the brand more.

Wendys has also worked with Nielsen to prove mobile and digitals value.

Mr. Rhoten said that the company traditionally did not believe that mobile and digital could help sell burgers because the brand was stuck on targeted rating points.

The study revealed that 62 percent of its unique digital reach was consumers less than 35 years old, which tends to be consumers who are not going to traditional quick-service burger chains as much anymore.

The study also found an 8.3 incremental reach on Facebook, and 27 percent of the brands digital content reached both TV and Facebook.

Moreover, 67 percent of activity was taking place via mobile.

Mr. Rhoten said that this study gives Wendys TRP data that includes the burger chains incremental digital presence.

In-restaurant engagement
As part of a bigger shift into digital the past few years, Wendys now builds every experience for mobile, each of which includes a social element.

In addition to a mobile site, the brand has made a big bet on apps the past year with a branded app that originally started as a hub of nutrition information.

Wendys then added mobile payments to the app in a trial that began last year, and recently rolled out mobile payments nationwide (see story).

The next phase of mobile payments will be part of a bigger loyalty push that can tailor rewards and offers that are customized to a users preferences.

People dont want to just swap a credit card for a smartphone app thats not the primary driver behind using a payment system, Mr. Rhoten said.

What changes peoples behavior is actually giving them incentivizes and then actually giving them a better experience changing the experience in that retail location, he said.

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