Ruby Tuesday Picks Precision and Emotion Over TV To Woo Moms

Restaurant's New Approach: A Three-Minute Digital Video and Shorter Spots on Streaming Services

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Ruby Tuesday Salad
Ruby Tuesday Salad Credit: Ruby Tuesday

Ruby Tuesday has said goodbye to traditional advertising and is going all in on social and streaming as it tries to win back a key group of customers who have been dining elsewhere.

The casual dining chain had gone a little bit upscale in recent years, a move that turned off some women with young families, Chief Marketing Officer Dave Skena said in his first interview since joining Ruby Tuesday in July.

As the restaurant tries to become "more casual and approachable" Mr. Skena is leading an updated marketing approach. Ruby Tuesday's brand transformation was already underway when he joined, following nine years at PepsiCo. Now, he and his team are ready to advertise some of the chain's recent efforts but decided to stay away from TV, as it has since late 2015.

"What we're really doing now is thinking about how can we use that same kind of investment to make sure we're reaching the folks we want with more precision," Mr. Skena said.

After a strategy that Mr. Skena described as "a little broad," marketing is now targeted at women with young families.

An online video called "Shy Girl" features a young girl having a difficult time adjusting to life at a new school. After a few scenes, including sitting with her family at Ruby Tuesday, she ultimately befriends a schoolmate at the chain's salad bar, which is called the Garden Bar.

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"We want them to be pulled in and attracted to something that's really very engaging entertainment that happens to take place in a Ruby Tuesday," said Mr. Skena.

The video includes multiple shots of ingredients added to the Garden Bar in an Atlanta test. The chain can use geotargeting to make sure those who see the video are within a few miles of a Ruby Tuesday with the updated ingredients, rather than spending on a national campaign.

"It's just pretty exciting to have that level of control over not only whom you hit, but how close they are to your restaurants. It's really that targeting that we're making a big bet on," Mr. Skena said.

Ruby Tuesday is still testing and learning to find the right balance for its media mix and how it uses social and digital platforms. For now, "a pretty overwhelming majority" of the spending is on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, with "a decent minority" in online video, Mr. Skena said. Shorter 15-second or 30-second ads will air on streaming services including Hulu rather than on traditional TV. There is still a small amount of print advertising, but Mr. Skena described the chain's media mix as "almost exclusively" social and streaming.

"We're still on screens everywhere," he said. "We don't ever want to not be on screens."

The Atlanta test of the updated Garden Bar, which began in February, shows how the chain is trying to win over diners looking for personalization and fresh ingredients. The Garden Bar is critical at Ruby Tuesday, as slightly more than 50% of patrons either order it as their main entree or as a side, Mr. Skena said. It now costs $9.99 in Atlanta, up $1 from the rest of the chain.

Ruby Tuesday is still working with both American Rogue and VaynerMedia, which did the long video and helps on social and digital content as well as media buying. Mr. Skena said spending as a percentage of sales is not changing dramatically, but noted VaynerMedia is getting a bigger chunk of work now that the company is more focused on those areas.

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