Restaurant chain commercials touting new products and value, particularly those for Pizza Hut’s $10 Dinner Box, proved influential in February, Ace Metrix research found.
The advertising research firm ranked restaurant companies’ advertisements by its proprietary Ace Score, which measures a commercial’s persuasiveness and watchability. Pizza chains dominated the top 10 scorers for February.
Pizza Hut’s 30- and 15-second spots for the $10 Dinner Box received the Nos. 1 and 2 Ace Scores, respectively, of 633 and 612 out of a possible 950.
“This has been an incredibly strong campaign for Pizza Hut, and these ads have done well for them all year long,” said Jonathan Symonds, executive vice president of marketing for Ace Metrix. “Price point still matters to Americans, and they’re still focused on value, taste and presentation.”
Pizza Hut’s chief marketing officer, Kurt Kane, told Nation’s Restaurant News  last month that the $10 Dinner Box — a bundle of a medium one-topping pizza, breadsticks and cinnamon sticks — was an attempt to make the chain’s value proposition more than “fighting it out on the price point” of a single pizza with its competitors.
Domino’s Pizza came in third place with its commercial for Parmesan Bread Bites, which had an Ace Score of 611. Meanwhile, Little Caesars had the No. 10 ad of February, with a 30-second commercial for its $5 Hot-N-Ready pizza and $8 Hot-N-Ready 3 Meat Treat pizza, which garnered a 594 Ace Score.
Watch Domino’s and Little Caesars’ commercials; story continues below
The top 10 ads for February generated higher Ace Scores than the restaurant industry norm, which was 571 for the year in 2011, Ace Metrix said.
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Several of the top-scoring ads attempted to use humor, but did so subtly, Symonds noted, like two commercials for KFC’s Chunky Chicken Pot Pie, which scored 608 and 606 to take the No. 4 and No. 6 Ace Scores, respectively. Two actors ordering the pot pie, a “classic” product, show up to their local KFC wearing ’70s clothes and driving a car from that decade.
Watch KFC’s commercial; story continues below
“Too much humor is polarizing, so it’s not something you want to take over the top,” he said. “In the comments from viewer ratings of KFC’s ads, [the respondents] liked the old outfits and car matching up nicely with the food. We saw that again with Applebee’s, where the humor was subtle but added levity, driving [the brand’s] ratings for likeability and attention.”
Applebee’s had the No. 7 and No. 8 Ace Scores, of 605 and 601, respectively, with two 15-second commercials for new additions to its 2 for $20 menu. The majority of those spots focused on food photography and describing flavors of the new menu items, while framing in the $20 price point from the offers name at the end.
Watch Applebee’s commercials; story continues below
Similarly, for No. 5 Baskin-Robbins, the “presentation of the food really made their commercial successful,” Symonds said, noting that the spot for ice cream cakes had an Ace Score of 607.
Popeyes’ ad for its Butterfly Shrimp Value Meal, which came in at No. 9 with an Ace Score of 598, also focused on the freshness of the chain’s seafood rather than the price.
“This is the consistent framework: You talk about the food and give great images for it, and then you frame it up as what the value of that purchase is,” Symonds said. “That’s been successful for brands over the past six to nine months.”
Ace Metrix is based in Mountain View, Calif.