Subway deploys 'subliminal messaging,' short-form ads for 3-day marketing blitz
- Subway recently ran a three-day, multichannel campaign focused on bizarre, "subliminal messaging," QSR Magazine reported. The sandwich chain deployed "bite-size ads" across platforms, including social media, OOH, TV and live events like the World Cup to support the effort.
- As part of the campaign, Subway projected giant images of foot-long subs on buildings in Chicago and used 3D chalk art to portray a giant meatball sub crashing through the pavement. Sand artists in San Diego, California, also created 12-foot sandwiches out of sand.
- Subway additionally ran short-form ads that were six seconds or less, including one showing a UFO abducting a foot-long sub from a group of sandwiches and another showing animated bubbles forming a sub. All featured the tagline, "Feed your subconscious." The campaign also included Instagram posts, a Snapchat filter based on its UFO ad and a series of GIFs showing dinosaurs who love subs.
Subway's campaign riffs on the idea of subliminal messaging that worms its way into consumers' subconscious, albeit in a not-so-subtle, sometimes off-the-wall way, such as through large building projections and sand sculptures. Other marketers have previously deployed similar creative strategies that play into the popularity of conspiracy theories. Beverage marketer Sprite ran a successful "Sublymonal" campaign over a decade ago that was intentionally disorienting and trippy, for example.
Subway also joins others brand in leveraging extra-short video ads, a nascent format that fits neatly into the narrative of subliminal advertising influencing consumers' with brief, sometimes indiscernible messages. Short-form, six-second ads on TV capture 8% to 11% more attention per second than longer ads, according to research by the Advertising Research Foundation and TVision Insights released earlier this month. When paired with longer creative, the format can also lift attention by up to 10%, which appears to be Subway's goal.
The latest marketing push by Subway marks a change in its creative strategy as the chain experiences disruption elsewhere. CEO Suzanne Greco recently announced plans for retirement, per QSR Magazine. In December, Subway's senior marketing vice president left after only eight months, and the company chose ad agency Dentsu Aegis Network to take over and modernize its media and creative business.
Last summer, Subway also launched the "Fresh Forward" initiative to redesign its restaurants and customer experience, including through self-order kiosks, mobile payment options, a new app and a designated area for pre-ordered pickups.