Going into 2018, Firehouse Subs sales were declining. While declining sales affected the entire Quick-Service Restaurants (QSR) industry, Firehouse Subs was struggling to keep pace with key competitors, especially as unconventional competitors, such as convenience stores and grocery stores, started to steal share from the industry. Firehouse Subs' key competitors were also vastly outspending it in advertising. With Firehouse Subs' rapidly growing footprint, a huge disparity existed with the maturity of each market.
Objective and Context:
The QSR market is exploding; there are many new competitors as well as established brands trying to maintain their brand and expand their customer base. Additionally, consumers are turning to off-premise dining more than ever. Firehouse Subs is currently delivering subs via third-party delivery services as this portion of its business continues to grow.
The flood of new competitors and the rise in off-premise dining present challenges that Firehouse Subs and its network of franchisees are proactively trying to solve. Given these challenges, driving visitation and gaining mindshare among current prospective customers are huge priorities from a marketing perspective.
The overarching goals of the campaign included boosting brand opinion and consideration among consumers less familiar with Firehouse Subs, driving visitation to Firehouse Subs locations among existing customers, and identifying and reaching new Firehouse Subs customers to drive trial.
The target audience for the campaign focused on people between the ages of 18 and 54. Among this group, there is an emphasis on:
The core Firehouse Subs target audience are busy individuals who want affordable, convenient, good food that offers variety and value.
The core user demographics include:
The campaign ran display creative highlighting special offers. Custom visitation models used machine learning to identify potential customers with the highest likelihood of visiting the restaurant. The campaign partnered with Placed to measure the campaign impact on verified visits.
Targeting also worked to understand the consumers' habits as they went about their day to increase awareness and consideration of Firehouse Subs. The campaign worked to intercept the target consumers during times when they were most receptive, specifically focused on increasing customers during specific times of day, and increasing frequency of light users (users who visit approximately once every quarter), and leveraged movement data to target users passing Firehouse Subs in their everyday routines.
Overall Campaign Execution:
This was the first time that Firehouse Subs used the innovative pricing mode Cost Per Incremental Visit (CPIV). In fact, this was AdTheorent, The Richards Group, Firehouse, and Placed's first CPIV campaign. The CPIV pricing model guarantees brands only pay for incremental visits, verified by a third party (Placed). An incremental visit is a physical store visit from a consumer that would not have happened if AdTheorent had not served them an ad.
AdTheorent's CPIV ad unit pricing model was perfectly suited to drive the real-world outcome of new (incremental) visitors: those visitors who had not visited in the past and increasing visitation behavior for past visitors.
The mobile display campaign, which ran from January to October 2018, was amplified by several custom machine learning solutions. AdTheorent's machine learning platform combined billions of data points to create custom location models to identify and engage consumers with the highest probability of visitation to drive consideration and increase new visits. AdTheorent used real-time geo signals to target commuters who were regularly within a five-mile drive time of a Firehouse Subs location. In addition, AdTheorent also looked at geo patterns to target audiences who were within a one-mile range of Firehouse Subs locations during lunch or dinner dayparts at least 10 times a month. Finally, AdTheorent targeted consumers who had visited key competitors within the past month.
The amount of data available on mobile allowed AdTheorent to build custom location models based on the geotargeting parameters. AdTheorent matched location-based data and ran predictive location targeting to serve ads to audience members who were in certain locations in real time and had high predictive scores to take certain actions. This allowed the company to reach the right audience within targeting parameters at the right time, and at scale. This yielded a superior result to location-based targeting alone.
Additionally, the mobile channel made visitation measurement in real time possible, allowing the company to directly correlate campaign exposure and visits.
The primary KPI for the campaign was visits to Firehouse Subs that resulted from ad exposure. AdTheorent's predictive audience models delivered a 112 percent lift in incremental visitation at 79 percent less than the contracted cost per incremental visit. Based on the contracted rate, AdTheorent delivered 202 percent in added value.
Given the exceedingly high visitation rate, the campaign was well received by consumers. Through the CPIV model, AdTheorent was able to demonstrate that exposure to the ad directly led to visitation. Additionally, AdTheorent delivered twice the amount of expected visitors to Firehouse Subs.