Advertiser: Subway Sandwiches & Salads
Agency: Hal Riney & Partners/Heartland, Chicago
Ad Review rating: 1 1/2 stars
When the commercial titled "Ingredients" opens, with a pastoral tableau of the family farm waking to the pastel dawn, it seems only natural that the voice we hear belongs to Hal Riney.
"It's the way the sun ... helps things grow ... in their own time," Riney begins, deliberately, as always, stringing sentences together like sausage links that have been cut beyond the joint.
"It's the way even on rainy days ... something good happens.
"Tomatoes become perfect ... lettuce and green peppers, just right."
He goes on in this, his famous halting style, using simple language to paint vivid pictures. And if the language pictures weren't vivid enough, the actual pictures are just as characteristically rich, emotional and beautiful.
"It's the way bread begins ... as an ocean of wheat ... before rising in the oven.
"It's the way onions can make you cry ... even when you're laughing."
And, yes, giggling teen-age girls frolic in slow motion. But the question is--40 seconds into this Hal Riney & Partners commercial starring Hal Riney--whoever is the advertiser? Perrier? Ronald Reagan? Farm Aid?
Well, no. Not Farm Aid, more's the pity. Because the correct answer is not to be believed.
"It's the way slow oven roasting ... makes things taste somehow better," he concludes. "And it's the way we make over a million people ... their favorite sandwich every day ... each a little different than the next ... which in case you're keeping track ... is more sandwiches than the entire population ... of North Dakota.
"Subway ... It's the way a sandwich should be."
Hal, old buddy, we gotta level with you here. We're not keeping track of unit sales. Nobody's keeping track, because nobody cares. And if there's anyone out there who cares how beautifully photogenic sun-ripened tomatoes are as they're plucked fresh off the vine by little farm girls, nobody thinks they have any relevance to Subway.
Don't take this the wrong way. The bucolic images of harvest baskets and windblown wheat are beautiful, too. It's just that the pictures would do a better job conjuring up the advertiser's business if they were bathed in a bazillion watts of fluorescent light and covered in yellow Formica.
You know, like the places where they actually sell the hoagies.
Hoagies, Hal. Hoagies. Sure, the kids skipping down a country lane and the muddy, brotherly embraces of soccer-playing identical twins are all very poignant, but your client sells hoagies.
In strip malls, and on street corners, using green peppers that have never been in a bushel basket in their giant-agribusiness-cultivated lives. You'd have us believe these precious ingredients are lovingly delivered by smiling farm families, but that doesn't square with our experience of seeing them slapped, assembly-line style, on pre-fabricated sandwich rolls by sullen teen-agers and underemployed immigrants.
It may be morning again in America, Hal, but it's minimum-wage time in the sandwich shop. Spare us the amber waves of grain.
We're reluctant to ridicule the Riney treatment, because we have always loved the Riney treatment. His deft writing and ingenuous delivery have graced some of the most lyrical, moving advertising ever produced. Of course, by the same token, we also love caviar.
But we don't put it on our hoagies.
Copyright February 1997, Crain Communications Inc.