Subway’s Bold Rebranding Campaign Promises a Different Taste for Everyone

Dentsu hopes its first work resonates with millenials and Gen-Z

The chain once boasted of 37 million potential sandwich varieties. Subway

Subway’s reintroduction to the public doesn’t include any company backstory like its previous campaign. It doesn’t mention five dollar footlongs or reference vegetables. And of course, longtime spokesperson Jared Fogle is nowhere to be seen.

Instead, the minute-long anthem spot debuting today during the Olympics focuses on variety, the so-called spice of life. A series of fast-paced vignettes positions Subway as all things to all people—especially those young in both body and mind.

“We feel like we’ve lost an emotional connection to our consumers,” said Chris Carroll, Subway’s chief advertising officer. “The fundamental pillars of our brand are health, value and indulgence. That’s never changed, it’s what we’ve done for 50 years. What we need to do is tell that story [better].”

Carroll said the new campaign “does what the brand really needs.”

“We set out to make the anti-Subway ad,” said mcgarrybowen executive creative director Craig Cimmino. His agency is part of The Franchise at Dentsu Aegis Network, which won Subway’s consolidated ad business last December (the group also includes Carat and DentsuBos).

Regarding the brief, Cimmino said, “[Subway CMO] Joe Tripodi told us, ‘We don’t stand for anything. We don’t have a heart.’ As a creative that’s a great challenge.”

Carroll said he asked agencies competing in its review last year to develop “an epic idea … something we can rally behind.”

The Dentsu team rose to the challenge, creating a patchwork of clips touching on a range of lifestyles from outdoor activities and extreme sports to modern animation, millennial parenting and more. This all feeds into Subway’s message: no matter what your taste, we’ve got something for you. In a 2012 press release, the chain boasted of 37 million potential sandwich variations based on ingredients available at all of its locations around the world.

“The campaign itself talks about how people live their individual lives; everybody wants to be an individual,” Carroll said. Cimmino added, “And if you like unique flavors, Subway is a natural choice for you because it allows you to have your own creation.”

In other words, you can be your own Sandwich Artist.

While Subway isn’t exclusively targeting younger demographics, Carroll hopes the message proves especially resonant with millennials and Gen-Z consumers. “People aspire to be younger,” he said. “It’s OK. No one who’s 40 aspires to be 60.”

Future ads in the “Make It What You Want” campaign will expand on the anthem’s themes, which consists of 70 percent original footage supplemented by user generated content.

And if you got a very rock ‘n roll feeling from the spot, that was no accident: It was directed by James Marcus Haney, a photographer and filmmaker who became famous for conducting unauthorized backstage photo shoots with rock bands. Haney documented his experience in the film No Cameras Allowed before directing official music videos for groups like Coldplay and Mumford & Sons.


Client: Subway
Campaign: Make It What You Want

Creative Agency: mcgarrybowen NY
Executive Creative Director : Craig Cimmino
Group Creative Director, Art : Soren Youngren
Group Creative Director, Copy: Malaika Danovitz
Associate Creative Director: Talia Marshall
Associate Creative Director: Jessica Terlizzi
Managing Director, Global Music Production: Jerry Krenach
Music Supervisor : Vlad Bar
Music Licensing Supervisor: Kaylyn Keane
Music Production Manager : Kate Kubaryk
Managing Director, Account: Chree Taylor
Group Managing Director: Jamie Ross
Account Supervisor: Sara Cook
Group Planning Director: Ben Johannemann

Production Company: Radical Media
Director: James Marcus Haney
Executive Producer: Gregg Carlisemo
Producer: Megan Miller
Producer: Jeff Goodnow

Production Company: MacGuffin Films
Director: Kevan Bean
Executive Producer: Gloria Colangelo
Producer: Peter Dever
Producer: Todd Scheifele

Editorial House: Kyle @ Moondog
Editor: Tina Mintus
Asst. Editor John McMinn
EP: Bernadette Quinn
Color: Company 3
Colorist: Tim Masick
Audio: Soundlounge
Engineer: Glen Landrum

Music: “No Limit” Performed by Country Teasers
Written by Raymond L. Ray Slijngaard, Anita D. Doth, Filip Marnix Luc De Wilde, Jean-Paul Henriette De Coster
Copyright Universal Polygram Int. Publishing, Inc. on behalf of Universal Music Publishing Ltd. (ASCAP)

Licensed By In The Red Records

Licensed/Stock/User Generated Footage:

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.
@kitten_mouse Lindsay Rittenhouse is a staff writer at Adweek, where she specializes in covering the world of agencies and their clients.