It's easy to assume that the fast-food breakfast war begins and ends with its two major contenders: Taco Bell and McDonald's. Not so, according to Kantar Media's analysis of fast-food chains' breakfast-focused ad spending, which showed that regional chains can account for a significant share of such advertising, even with smaller budgets, in certain major markets.
During the first nine months of 2015, Taco Bell spent $79 million on national and local TV spots focused on breakfast, according to Kantar. During the same period, McDonald's spent $53 million, though that was before the national rollout of its all-day breakfast in October. Meanwhile, regional chains like Carl's Jr. and Hardee's ($18 million), Jack in the Box ($8 million), Chick-fil-A ($6 million) and Bojangles' ($3 million) pushed their way into the conversation.
"We often think of national chains—Burger King, Taco Bell, McDonald's—as the primary combatants, and on a national level, they are," said Jon Swallen, Kantar Media CRO. "But there are regional chains—large regional chains like a Carl's Jr. or a Hardee's or smaller regional chains like Bojangles'—and for them, it's also a battle. But it's a market-by-market battle." (See Kantar's charts below.)
Even though Bojangles' only spends about $2.5 million in media, for example, "[it's] spending all of that in about four or five markets," Swallen said. "So in those markets where they're located and spending and can compete, their share of voice is much higher than what would be suggested by a national $2.5 million advertising budget."