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SUBWAY REGIONAL AGENCY SCORES WITH LOW-FAT EFFORT; UNCERTAINTY LINGERS OVER HOW CAMPAIGN WILL FIT WITH RINEY WORK

By Published on .

Just as Hal Riney & Partners Heartland gears up to launch its new campaign for Subway Sandwiches & Salads, a different campaign from a regional shop appears to be stealing Riney's thunder.

While Riney's Chicago office works on its own national campaign for next year, Hively Agency, a Subway regional shop in Houston, is running a new "low fat" creative approach that's impressing Subway executives and franchisees.

NATIONAL AIRING COMING

The Hively ads are yielding sufficient sales gains in test markets that franchisees and Subway corporate insiders agree it will almost certainly get a national airing in January.

Neither Riney nor Subway officials will say anything about the Chicago agency's campaign, except its tagline is "Subway: It's the way a sandwich should be."

Executives of both Hively and Riney were in Boston Nov. 22, as Subway's Advertising Trust board met to finalize 1997 media plans.

It was not clear from any side whether the Hively campaign would run parallel with or be somehow integrated into Riney's effort. Some industry insiders say Riney is developing its own low-fat ads.

"My contention is that we pitched a whole campaign and they bought it," said Barry Krause, Riney Heartland's exec VP-managing director. "Whether there are any plans to accept that campaign, I don't know. I've not heard one mention of [future plans for] that work."

Riney in October won its bid to retain the chain's estimated $45 million account, following a four-month agency review, while Hively won Subway's estimated $1.5 million Gulf Coast regional co-op business last June following a review.

Subway annually spends an estimated $40 million on local ads.

Hively's two spots are currently testing in several markets, including Atlanta, Dallas/Fort Worth and San Antonio, a Subway spokeswoman said.

SUCCESS IN HOUSTON

Franchisees in Houston report nearly 14% sales gains since the spots debuted there earlier this fall.

"Corporate has been encouraging the franchisees to air it," said Charles Hively, agency president. "But whether it goes national, I just don't know."

The regional spots emphasize the low-fat content of several Subway sandwiches. One shows a man stepping on a scale, which gives off the sound of a revving engine as the dial spins.

The long-term impact of such a campaign remains in question. Conventional wisdom among fast-food chains is that health-related marketing has limited staying power except in a handful of markets.

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