Quiznos Gets Serious About Subway, May Retire Baby Bob

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Baby Bob may get a pink slip before he gets a chance to try the Quiznos subs he's been hawking since the Super Bowl.

The privately held No. 2 sub chain has hired WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather, Chicago, and plans to cut the baby talk as it gets serious about taking on No. 1 Subway Restaurants.

Ogilvy has been hired to handle a "strategic" assignment, according to executives close to the marketer, but also may be given creative duties for 2006. Two executives said the company will end its Baby Bob campaign by the end of the year. Quiznos spent an estimated $75 million for the 12 months ended June 2005.

Independent Siltanen & Partners, El Segundo, Calif., brought out of retirement the wry-talking tot who waxes about toasted sandwiches rather than strained peas.

Since the baby was cast as the latest spokesman for the $1.1 billion chain, Quiznos Chief Concept Officer Tom Ryan has taken over from Trey Hall, who left to return to McDonald's-owned Boston Market. Mr. Ryan tapped WPP Group's Ogilvy, one of his favorite ad agencies, to help drive a more product-oriented marketing strategy.

Siltanen referred calls to Quiznos, which hasn't returned repeated calls. Ogilvy referred calls to the marketer.

Quiznos has a history of using off-the-wall creative that often is polarizing within the mass market. Baby Bob (who incidentally is played by a girl) has ranked among the top 10 best-liked spots five times across seven executions since his debut, according to Advertising Age and IAG's Top Spots. Its highest rank achieved was fourth.

However, some viewers criticized the sexual inuendo between the baby and some of his sexy female co-stars in ads. Baby Bob replaced Quiznos' controversial Spongmonkeys, a campaign created by then-agency, Interpublic Group of Cos.' Martin Agency, Richmond, Va. The chain earlier used Cliff Freeman & Partners, New York, which created spots showing a man suckling a wolf.

Quiznos continues to grow and had been cutting into sales at Subway until that chain introduced its own version of toasted subs.

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Jim Arndorfer and Matthew Creamer contributed to this report.

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