But Are Its New Children Ads Cheap and Exploitive?

By Published on .

Client: Subway
Agency: Fallon Worldwide, Minneapolis
Star Rating: 2

Obesity. It’s been on Peter Jennings and all the news-magazine covers. Cable has more file footage of overfed

In Subway's new ads former fatman Jared Fogle and his young friends urge consumers to 'Choose well.'
Americans waddling through the mall than it does of Scott Peterson. Yes, the mainstream media -- which feed on ads for Pringles, Haagen-Dazs and bacon-and-cheese You Name It -- are shocked, shocked by the fatness epidemic.

Sinister forces
It’s unhealthy! It’s a sign of moral laxity! It’s the work of sinister commercial forces!

Want curly fries with that?

Hypocrisy or no, the nation’s consciousness about the obvious does seem to be momentarily raised, which guarantees three things:

1) A few politicians and bureaucrats will try to find a governmental solution, which does not exist, because you can’t legislate against moral laxity and Snickers.

2) A few people will fundamentally change their eating habits.

3) Somebody will cash in.

Playing the lard card
Enter Subway, home of the low-fat sandwich menu, which has more reason than most Franchised Purveyors of Crap to play the lard card. In a new campaign -- the last from its fired agency, Fallon Worldwide, Minneapolis -- Subway implores America to take care of what we feed our kids. The first spot’s setting is a pastoral tableau, across which young Cody runs in super-slow motion.

Boy: “When my brother had friends over, I would, like, stay up in my room because I was afraid they’d call me fat, or something. Now I’m not afraid of that at all. I started running and eating better stuff. I’m Cody. I’m 12 years old.”

Subway Spokesman Jared Fogle: “More than anything, we want your children to lead long and healthy lives.”

The slogan: “Choose well,” wordplay that means not only picking the best fast-food store, but also choosing wellness -- which, to the extent that it captures the anti-obesity zeitgeist, is fine.

Or cheap and exploitive
Or cheap and exploitive; we’re not sure.

Jared’s assertion about Subway’s No. 1 priority isn’t demonstrably a lie; who’s for sick kids? But come on: Subway’s cold cuts, cheese, mayo and bread aren’t exactly sprouts and bean curd. You’re at least as likely to work yourself into a size of 46x20 jeans at Subway than out of them. Besides, we’re pretty sure that if a Subway Club With Bacon and Melted Cheddar would boost same-store sales, we’d be seeing commercials about that. So, on this claim of dietary high ground, mark us down as “squeamish.”

How strange and unfortunate, meantime, that this campaign is Fallon’s swan song on the account, because the agency’s work -- or, at least, its concept -- was very strong. A Subway lunch as license for occasional self-indulgence elsewhere is a powerful selling idea.

Fallon's adolescent sensibilities
Yes, the concept was tastelessly realized in Fallon’s initial spots: a man dressed as a girl cheerleader and a doctor jesting about a terminal prognosis. Those jokes revealed more about the writers’ adolescent sensibilities than they did about the brand promise.

They were immature also in terms of the message life cycle. Had Fallon simply held off on the cross-dressing gags for about two years, after less absurd iterations of the “license” gag, maybe it would still have the business. But, as we observed, moral laxity is a problem.

A big, fat one.

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