Subway's New Healthy Eating Ad Is Brilliant but Cynical

Does It Facilitate Consumers' Weak and Self-Deluding Habits?

By Published on .

Yeah, great invention is the art of realizing the obvious, but it's still amazing nobody came up with this before: drive-thru truth.

The scene is an anonymous fast-food joint. A couple pulls up to the intercom to place their order:
Speaker: Can I help you?

Husband: Yeah. ... Can I get the love handles, double chin annnnd ... some blubber.

Speaker: Do you want the double blubber?

Husband: Sure.

Wife: And I'll have the same thing, but instead of the blubber, could I get some thunder thighs and a badonkadonk butt?

Speaker: Please drive around.

Voice-over: When you get greasy fast food, what are you really getting? Introducing the new Subway Fresh Fit meals with better-for-you sides and drinks. The new Subway Fresh Fit meals fit into the American Heart Association's approach to a healthy lifestyle. Subway. Eat fresh!

The spot, from MMB, Boston, is brilliant partly because the deadpan acting is fabulous, partly because the copy is flawless. (You'll be amused to know that AdReview is so old and so monumentally white that we had never before encountered "badonkadonk," which has its roots in hip-hop but somehow gravitated across pop culture clear to country music and now fast food without our notice. It's an onomatopoeic way of saying giant booty.)

Mainly, though, what propels this ad is the perfect purity -- however obvious -- of the idea: When you are ordering fast food, you are ordering your own obesity. Then it is for the advertiser merely to provide a palatable alternative: low-fat sandwiches with apple slices (instead of chips) on the side and Diet Coke to wash it all down.

Once you enter a Subway, of course, lured by the promise of wholesome low-fat goodness, you are under no obligation to purchase the six-fat-gram turkey 'n' lettuce sandwich. In fact, more likely you'll get a Meatball Marinara with double meat, double cheese, bacon and ... excuse me ... no ... I said more mayo.

Whether people think the wallpaper maps of New York and yellow Formica will make them skinny is unclear, but what is clear is that there is bait and switch going on -- with the consumer voluntarily doing the switching.

Thus, the nagging problem with this spot and many of its kind. It's disingenuous, because while it accurately reflects what is sold, and while it will probably keep the Food Police at bay for a while, it mainly just provides consumers an opportunity to be weak and self-deluding. If you want to have a good laugh, go to a Subway and just watch people order the 12-inch Chipotle Steak & Cheese (52 grams of fat) with apple slices and a Diet Coke.

This gets to the voice-over line about the American Heart Association's "approach to a healthy lifestyle." It sounds suspiciously like an endorsement -- and you can be sure that logo did not come cheap. But cheap is what this is. Yes, the actual text, in context, is clear, but the heart association knows full well that the only thing most consumers will register is the juxtaposition of its name with Subway's -- and whatever dietary license that implies. It also knows the six-fat-gram sandwiches are just nutrition loss leaders for the rest of the menu -- which is, of course, yummy and disgraceful.

So, as we began, this is a brilliant ad. Cynical, but brilliant. And, no, AdReview does not hold Americans' horrendous diet against the fast-food industry any more than we hold Tom Cruise against Hollywood. Furthermore, we cannot claim that the advertiser doesn't actually offer the goods.

It should just be clear that the badonkadonk joint in the spot needn't be anonymous. It could just be Subway.

~ ~ ~
Marketer: Subway
Brand: Healthy Lifestyle Menu
Agency: MMB
Stars: Three
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