The Carroll boys: Subway pitch shines light on brotherhood

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When Subway restaurants put its creative advertising account into review last month, it drew headlines but also offered a rare and interesting glimpse into how business intertwines with-and even transcends-brotherhood.

In this case, the brothers are from an increasingly prominent advertising family: the Carrolls, a trio from an Irish-Catholic brood of five from Schenectady, N.Y.

Chris Carroll, 46, has been director-marketing for Subway's Franchisee Advertising Fund Trust since November 1999. A month later he awarded the account to Havas' Euro RSCG MVBMS, New York, which at different times, had employed brothers Tom, 47, and Michael, 36. The two other brothers are in completely different fields: Dennis sells medical supplies, and Bill is a lawyer.

Tom Carroll spent four years with MVBMS until January 1999, when he became president-CEO at Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day, New York. He now is president of TBWA North America. Brother Michael joined MVBMS that April as account supervisor for Universal Studios Theme Parks. Michael never worked on Subway, but was account director on Intel-and most recently director-business development.

"When Chris put the account up for review, Messner came highly regarded from both brothers," said Tom Carroll, adding that their influence stopped there. "It's always tricky when you mix friends and family and business."

Chris, noting that Subway's franchisee board knew his brother worked for MVBMS when he hired the agency, said he talks to his brothers several times a week. As for where business fits into their conversations, "advertising comes way down the list, after jokes and making fun of each other."

more competition

Michael did not return calls for comment. "We don't let Michael talk, he's the youngest," Tom said with a laugh.

Under Chris Carroll's watch, Subway has jumped from the seventh-ranked national chain to fourth behind McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's, and his marketing budget more than doubled to $300 million. Despite that success, competition has grown in the sandwich segment, prompting the review. Last week, MVBMS, creator of the "Eat Fresh" and Jared campaigns, opted not to defend the account.

"It's a hard thing to do," Chris Carroll said. "You're a human being. It's your family. I love all my brothers but I can't let that affect what the people who employ me expect me to do." He added that the brothers haven't talked about the review or the contenders.

Moreover, when Michael was let go last week in a shakeup of MVBMS's new-business department, Chris said he didn't hear about it until after the agency had already pulled out of the pitch. (See related story, AdAge.com QwikFIND aao67v).

Subway last week named four agency finalists: Interpublic Group of Cos.' Deutsch, New York; Omnicom Group's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco; Publicis Groupe's Fallon Worldwide, Minneapolis and independent Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore. A decision is expected in mid- to late July.

"My brothers are both terrific guys," said Tom. "Michael will get another job, Chris will find another agency. Messner, which is a terrific agency, will get another client and life will go on."

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