Stirring souls and selling bowls the wagamama way, through the secret power of cinema

IPA Effectiveness Awards Case Study 2020

With consumer confidence falling and closures in the casual dining sector, wagamama responded by focusing on brand building over price promotions. It targeted younger diners (‘Urban Butterflies’) with distinctive cinema ads, expanding the approach after a successful test to London, where wagamama earns 45% of its revenue. In 2019, TV was added as a secondary channel. Sales in control outlets near cinemas rose, as did brand metrics and purchase intent. It is estimated that overall the activity delivered 440,000 incremental customers in 2019, with penetration growing among the targeted group. Advertising’s return is calculated at £10.80 per £1 invested.

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We’ve written this paper at a time where the very future of the hospitality industry is under threat, with no guarantee that guests will return to eat at restaurants in the aftermath of COVID19. For an industry that has historically built its brands through great experience once through the door rather than communications before it, we sincerely hope that this paper persuades operators sceptical of the relevance of brand communication and ‘traditional’ paid media to the sector to look again. For wagamama specifically this paper is a key milestone in cementing the role of marketing communications as a primary growth lever that began with the econometric study that it features. The extreme turbulence we’re all experiencing means that the knowledge accumulated amongst people in the business is not enough – we simply must document what we’ve learned in a way that can live beyond any one individual. The econometric study and this IPA Effectiveness Paper are the recipe for recovery that we hope those tasked with resuming wagamama’s growth story will take heed of. To that end, the intention remains to re-run the econometric study at an appropriate interval to bolster our learning with a view of how the effectiveness of our approach changes over time, and in particular to review whether the success of cinema as a channel grows as it becomes an increasing focus for media spend. wagamama’s second piece of cinema creative was released shortly before the pandemic hit, and we hope to air it again afterwards, so the learnings we’ve taken are already being embedded in our mix. We sincerely hope that the tremendous results we saw over the time period covered by this paper are replicated and enhanced after it, and a sequel is submitted in the years to come.

Ross Farquhar, CMO

Winners 2020

Bronze Winner


Stirring souls and selling bowls the wagamama way, through the secret power of cinema






MullenLowe London

Principal Authors

  • Becky Geiringer - MullenLowe
  • Maria O'Connor - the7stars
  • Jane Dorsett - MullenLowe Group

Contributing Authors

  • Ross Farquhar - wagamama
  • Annabelle Butler - MullenLowe Group
  • Simon Harwood - the7stars
  • Louise Cook - Holmes & Cook

Credited Companies

  • -

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