Quizno's axes spongmonkey spokesthings

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Quizno's is quietly disposing of its spongmonkeys-and it can't come too soon for some franchisees.

The bulging-eyed vermin that screech odes of "We love the subs!" in Quizno's TV ads were aimed at making the brand cool among 18-to-24-year olds. But they caused a consumer commotion big enough that Huey Mack, who owns one Quizno's unit in Mobile, Ala., posted a sign on his restaurant door explaining he had nothing to do with the ads.

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"In our area we've had nothing but negative comments and sales will prove that it hurt business," he said.

He isn't alone: After consumer complaints, several franchisees posted signs to direct calls to the corporate office to distance themselves from the decision.

Quizno's is privately held and doesn't report its sales. But Chief Marketing Officer Trey Hall insisted that the company is pleased and is merely shifting to emphasize menu.

"Our strategy was to create awareness and buzz ... that's what we have done," he said. "Then we pulled back on [the branding ads] to sell real product benefits." Food-focused spots broke last week for "Craveable Salads."

The "spokesthings," as Quizno's called them, appeared first in February in ads from Quizno's agency Interpublic Group of Cos.' Martin Agency, Richmond, Va., that featured the creatures created by British animator Joel Veitch. As many as 30,000 calls flooded the Denver headquarters' main switchboard the first week inquiring about the new brand zealots.

Mr. Hall wouldn't disclose what direction new creative would take, but isn't ruling out more buzz-producing ads.

"I hope it will be something good for all concerned," said franchisee Mr. Mack. "I understand they have made some changes and it's certainly for the better."

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