In late December 2023, advertisements were displayed online that claimed Sonic Drive-In would be closing its entire chain of restaurant locations in 2024.
"Restaurant chains closing 2024," one ad read, alongside a photos of a Sonic restaurant with a sign that advertised a strawberry cheesecake shake.
Other ads with photos of Sonic locations read, "They're closing doors in 2024. These fast-food restaurant chains are closing the doors in 2024."
All of the ads led to an extremely lengthy, ad-filled, slideshow-style article on Reference.com that displayed the headline, "These 53 Restaurant Chains Are on the Brink of Disappearing Entirely."
However, the article said nothing of Sonic closing in 2024, nor did it mention that the company would be filing bankruptcy, going out of business or anything similar.
The ads were false clickbait, plain and simple.
In the long article, the story only mentioned old news about the company in two small paragraphs:
Dubbed as "America’s favorite drive-in," Sonic may not be the apple of the eye of customers lately. In 2018, their quarterly reports have already plummeted. CEO Cliff Hudson related this to the "unfavorable weather" and "continued aggressive discounting by the competition."
Sonic is still trying to find their way out of the woods by appealing to younger diners. The drive-in fast-food restaurant chain now offers an order-ahead smartphone app and half-price drinks and shakes during certain times of the day.
The reason why these kinds of ads and articles exist is for something called advertising arbitrage. Advertising arbitrage is a strategy by which an advertiser hopes to make more money on ads displayed in a lengthy article than it costs to display an initial clickbait ad meant to attract users to the article.
We reached out to Sonic's media relations team to ask if they had any reaction to the dubious ads and will update this story if we receive a response.
Note: If readers would like to report any strange or misleading ads on Snopes, we invite you to contact us. Please include the full link of the website where the questionable ad led to so that we can attempt to investigate and potentially block any such ads.