Subway's new campaign grilling McDonald's backfires with consumers
- Subway is taking jabs at McDonald's in its latest campaign, but consumers are not responding favorably, calling one of the ads annoying and inappropriate on social media, according to Business Insider.
- The ad under scrutiny displays McDonald's golden arches, with a high-pitched voice repeating "burger" over and over with increasing speed to resemble a heart monitor, which eventually flatlines. The ad, which, like the rest of the campaign, includes small print reading it is "not affiliated with McDonald's," has the tagline: "Burger after burger after burger. Is your burger routine feeling a little flat?" The spot then shows images of Subway sandwiches and the chain's new slogan, "Make it what you want."
- Other videos in the campaign depict what appear to be McDonald's mascots like Ronald McDonald and Grimace sitting on a beach or by the pool drinking from Subway cups and with sandwhiches. The posts shared on social media include the hashtag #SubTheBurger.
Subway's strategy with the latest campaign is pretty clear: position its offerings as healthy dining alternatives while also taking aggressive swipes at its competitors. The approach is one that has become increasingly popular in a fast-food category that is struggling to win over the preferences of choosier young consumers.
Other fast-food chains have taken jabs at McDonald’s in their marketing, namely Wendy's, which frequently calls out its competitor for using ingredients like frozen beef on Twitter and in ad spots. However, by depicting the McDonald's logo as a heart rate monitor that races and eventually flatlines, Subway is implying its burger rival is potentially deadly, which could read as tasteless and not necessarily in good fun.
The video itself using loud, high-pitched beeping might have made an impression on viewers, but not a good one, as a high volume of complaints about it has led Subway to do damage control on Twitter, pleading with critics to stick around with the brand. So while Subway was likely hoping to court millennials, who tend to prefer healthier options over fast food, with the campaign, it has actually risked alienating them. Millennials, more than other age groups, are likely to call out brands directly on social media for perceived missteps.
Subway has been pinched by sales declines in recent years, with its store count dropping by more than 900 in 2017, according to Business Insider. The chain's marketing department has also experienced some shuffling.
Dentsu Aegis took over Subway's media and creative business late last year to help modernize the brand. Those efforts have included a "Fresh Forward" initiative to redesign Subway restaurants and customer experiences, including through self-order kiosks, mobile payments options, a new app and an area for pre-ordered pickups. McDonald's has enacted a similarly digital- mobile-focused strategy to revamp its restaurants and ordering business.