Subway Chooses A Bad Way

May 1st, 2009 by admin Leave a reply »

For months I’ve been considering a rant about Subway’s irritating “Five Dollar Footlong” ad campaign, but I never followed through because it seemed too easy of a target. However, their latest pathetic effort simply demands comment and condemnation.

A generation or so ago, it was common to be subjected to intentionally annoying advertising that was effective at getting viewers’ attention and, inexplicably, inducing a lot of those viewers to buy the product. A prime example: Ralston Purina’s “Meow Meow Meow Meow” campaign for Meow Mix. It was grating rather than great, but by all accounts it was effective. While the quality of advertising in general doesn’t seem to have progressed since then, at least these so-annoying-you-can’t-help-but-pay-attention campaigns seem to be less common. Unfortunately for all of us, Subway’s “Five Dollar Footlong” campaign is the exception; it’s now in its third or fourth incarnation, the latest of which is by far the worst of the bunch. It features what seems like dozens of individuals and groups attempting to sing a part of their exceptionally mundane theme song, with each being more off-key and obnoxious than the next. If you love the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard, you’ll love this advertising,

What particularly aggravates me–and this was true of their earlier versions–is when the people laugh like what they’re doing is really funny. What I want to know is, do Subway’s management and ad agency really think this is clever stuff? Or do they realize that it’s inane and annoying, but they simply don’t care because it’s somehow good for business? Speaking of which, while they may have data indicating the campaign is “working,” I firmly believe that whatever success they’re experiencing is due more to the millions of dollars they’re spending rather than the distinctly unclever advertising they’re spending it on. In fact, I have no doubt that a smarter, more endearing campaign would have an even greater impact. Unfortunately, it’s hard to be clever but easy to be annoying, and Subway has opted to make it easy on themselves…and hard on viewers. But there is no way their brand equity is not taking a hit as a result of the aural and visual pain they’re inflicting on current and prospective customers.

Marketing is about capturing the audience’s attention and then conveying a compelling message. There are lots of ways to capture my attention. A good way makes me go, “Hey, that’s really cool!” A bad way makes me go, “Ugh, that’s disgusting!” Unfortunately, Subway has chosen a bad way. A very, very bad way.

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