Subway Backtracks on No-Discount Ad Strategy

New Ads Tout 'Six Dollar Footlongs' That Used to be 'Five Dollar Footlongs'

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When Subway broke a new campaign in December, a top marketing executive said the sandwich chain was moving away from ads that tout discounts.

Franchisees convinced Subway leaders that "we don't have to discount our products," Chief Advertising Officer Chris Carroll told Ad Age in an interview. "We have a great product. Our consumers love it. Just tell our story."

But with a new ad airing this week, Subway is deviating from that strategy and going back to talking about pricing. An ad that broke Wednesday called "Submageddon" (above) has discounting at its core, with the spot touting footlong sandwiches for "just $6 each."

"Six-dollar footlongs are a big deal," the ad declares.

But are they as big a deal as $5 footlongs? Those were the subject of the chain's long-running "Five Dollar Footlong" campaign that included an oft-used jingle that some consumers might still have stuck in their heads.

In December, Mr. Carroll said the five-dollar marketing at one time "made that offer so amazingly attractive: I'm getting an $8 sandwich for $5." But, he added, "after a while you convince consumers that it's really only a $5 sandwich and so that's really what it's worth."

With the new ads, the chain risks essentially reminding people that those $5 dollar footlongs now cost a dollar more. The agency is BBDO, New York, which won the Subway account last year.

Ad Age asked a Subway spokeswoman about the apparent inconsistency of the new ad with the strategy outlined in December. In an email, she stated: "We're always looking for new ways to bring our guests great tasting, quality subs that are worth the price."

She added: "When we first introduced the $5 Footlong in 2008, we aimed to give our guests the best quality meal for the best value. Since that time, the economy has changed and the value of a dollar has shifted. Additionally, the '$5 Footlong' campaign has not been advertised nationally since early 2014. With that in mind, this promotion offers an unparalleled quality, value and variety to our guests over our current value competition."

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