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    Subway Goes SUBliminal in New Ad Campaign

  • Will viewers take notice of something that makes them question what they just saw?

    Subway
    The world’s largest chain is betting on a blend of guerilla marketing and subliminal suggestion.

    Subway continues to double down on its new marketing approach, but rather than rely heavily on crowdsourcing as it did in February, the chain has turned to a mix of guerilla marketing and subconscious suggestion.

    This past weekend Subway launched a three-day teaser campaign across various channels in which it used “SUBliminal messaging.” The brand’s reasoning? In the media-saturated landscape, viewers are more likely to take notice of something that makes them question what they just saw.

    To that point, Subway inserted bite-size ads across platforms ranging from social and television to live events like the World Cup and in-person experiences.

    Subway first launched the “Make It What You Want” multi-channel campaign during the Winter Olympics this past February. It utilized fan-generated content—many of which featured fans doing daring stunts like snowboarding and flame throwing—and was the first project produced by creative agency The Franchise @ Dentsu Aegis Network.

    The new iteration comes at a time when Subway could use a bit of a boost. In March, the brand’s MyWay Rewards loyalty app was met with mixed reviews; two months later Suzanne Greco announced she’d be stepping down as CEO; and most recently the company offered franchisees the option to stop serving omelet sandwiches, which it had introduced (and mandated) eight years prior.

    But whatever troubles Subway may be facing, the chain’s marketing division rallied to create this latest, wide-reaching campaign.

    In Chicago, giant images of footlongs were projected on the buildings while 3D chalk art in a parking lot displayed an enormous meatball sub that had seemingly crashed through the cement. In Chicago, sand artists carved a footlong loaded with sliced meat, cheese, tomatoes, pickles, and lettuce that was easily 12 feet rather than 12 inches.

    On TV, Subway ran ads that were 6 seconds or less—just long enough for the recognizable subs to pop onscreen. In one, a UFO abducted a lone footlong from a herd of sandwiches. In another, animated bubbles gathered to form a sub.

    Subway also hit social channels during its three-day teaser stint. Instagram stories showed a footlong glitching in and out of focus while SnapChat capitalized on the UFO ad with an accompanying filter. On Twitter, the brand unleashed a suite of GIFs featuring footlong-loving dinosaurs (not coincidentally given that Subway also ran the TV spots as in-theater ads during the opening weekend for Jurassic World.) 

    Whether its subs made quick cameos on social, TV, or in city parks, the branding was subtle with the only verbiage being a quick flash of the updated logo or the blurry query: “Seeing Subs?”

    After the 72 hours of short snippets, Subway revealed its hand with a number of extended (15-second) ads and cross-platform materials assuring fans, “You’re not crazy; you’re just hungry. Feed your SUBconscious here.”

    Time will tell if SUBliminal messaging resonated with fans—and if it’s going to become a regular tool in Subway’s marketing repertoire.