BBDO New York Takes a Trip Back to the ’60s in First Subway Campaign

By Patrick Coffee 

The big question surrounding Subway’s creative review and BBDO’s subsequent win was “where will they take the brand?”

The answer, unsurprisingly, is as far from Jared Fogle as possible.

BBDO New York’s first campaign for the sandwich chain launched today after a one-off spot promoting “National Sandwich Day” and a couple of efforts by other agencies (McCann made the Star Wars cantina spot you’ve seen on TV, and 360i recently debuted a digital campaign starring the former Buster Bluth).


The debut spot hops into the time machine to revisit a groovier era: 1965, the year two dudes from Connecticut founded what would become America’s largest fast food chain. It’s all about connecting the purity of the vision offered by Fred DeLuca and Peter “Not the R.E.M. Guitarist” Buck to the brand’s current identity as a possibly-healthier alternative to your grease joint of choice. (Interestingly, DeLuca–who died of lukemia this fall–is played by his son.)

Note that this campaign tweaks the “Eat Fresh” line to create “Founded on Fresh.”

We could debate the accuracy of Subway’s “fresh” claims, but many have done so before and none of that in-depth investigative journalism deterred the brand from sticking with its message. The FDA also tells us that the term is not subject to any real scrutiny as long as it “does not suggest or imply that a food is unprocessed or unpreserved.”

Also, we kind of liked microwave meals. Without them, we never would have encountered the wonder that is Salisbury steak.

The second ad from BBDO sticks with the core differentiator while revealing that all of the chain’s employees like to sample the sandwich artists’ work.

So what can we expect from Subway in 2016? Chief advertising officer and former Zimmerman executive Chris Carroll tells AdAge this week that BBDO’s work will continue in the vein of these two spots, with less emphasis on celebrities and discounts and more uses of the F-word.

Also: “…the chain will talk about fresh in a new way, emphasizing moves like a planned transition away from using meat sourced from animals treated with antibiotics.

This all makes sense. Carroll says the word “fresh” is now taken to mean antibiotic-free rather than freshly baked or not frozen. He also says that the changes mentioned will reverberate throughout every level of the organization and that many future campaigns, like the one above, will focus on specific products.

On a side note, remember when some guy in Australia forced the chain into a PR freakout after noting that many footlongs are not, in fact, exactly one foot long? That turned into a class action lawsuit and led to an October announcement in which Subway promised to measure the buns in question to ensure that customers get all their promised inches in addition to updating employee manuals that “previously allowed for a small tolerance in the size of the footlong sandwich.”

Perhaps more importantly, they’re nixing all the Fogle-era weight loss claims.

Agency: BBDO New York
Client: Subway
Title: “Founders”

Chief Creative Officer, Worldwide: David Lubars
Chief Creative Officer, New York: Greg Hahn
Executive Creative Director: Peter Kain
Executive Creative Director: Gianfranco Arena
Creative Director: Justin Bilicki
Creative Director: Matt Herr
Creative Director: Peter Alsante
Art Director: Andy Dao

Director Integrated Production: David Rolfe
Executive Integrated Content Producer: Lisa Petroni
Senior Integrated Content Producer: Melanie Cornish
Junior Producer: Katie Greene
Senior Business Manager: Maria Elia
Junior Music Producer: Julia Millison
Senior Account Director: Dhane Scotti
Account Director: Sarah Parkinson
Account Director: Amanda Baizen
Account Manager: Kate Sawyer
Account Executive: Victoria Gan
Assistant Account Executive: Hannah Melton
Assistant Account Executive: Carolina Foster

Production Company: World War 7
Director: David Shafei
Director of Photography: Jim Denault

Editorial: No.6
Executive Producer: Corina Dennison
Producer: Alexandra Leal
Editor: Jason Macdonald
Editor: Justin Quagliata
Assistant Editor: Zach Patten
Assistant Editor: Everett Forbes

Music House: Heard City
Mixer: Keith Reynaud
Mixer: Evan Mangiamele
Executive Producer: Gloria Pitagorsky
Producer: Talia Rodgers
Producer: Sasha Awn

Visual Effects House: GNTLMN