Jimmy John’s Enlists Out-of-Work Creatives to Advertise Its Sandwich Deals

Restaurant chain breaks with its own history to offer discounts during pandemic

jimmy john's restaurant
Sandwich chain Jimmy John's combines value menu offerings with providing work for unemployed creatives to get through the pandemic. Jimmy John's
Headshot of Richard Collings

Key insight:

During the pandemic, Jimmy John’s, like many restaurant chains, had to figure out how to keep business going as the lunch flow of office workers largely evaporated.

The sandwich chain responded by introducing a number of value offerings that appealed not only to customers’ taste buds but their wallets too. Jimmy John’s also took the initiative a step further by actively seeking to provide work for newly unemployed creatives in need of income.

Both initiatives were a break from how the company has operated in the past.

“Jimmy John’s historically has not been a price-point value player in the marketplace,” said Darin Dugan, the company’s CMO, in an interview with Adweek.

But after the quick-service operator saw foot traffic plummet beginning in mid-March, it came out with a number of promotions when “cold hard cash is just as important as ever,” Dugan said.

It’s part of the price-point wars between various restaurant chains currently underway as they vie for a share of the smaller pie of consumer dollars.

Jimmy John’s offerings thus far have included a $5 discount for every $20 a customer spends, free chips with purchase of a sandwich and free small sandwiches for kids. On June 15, the chain began offering customers who purchase an 8- or 16-inch sandwich a 50% discount on a second sandwich.

Jimmy John's

The value offerings have been featured in the chain’s ad campaigns, which are currently airing on national television and digital video platforms.

Instead of relying on stock footage or reediting existing footage, however, the sandwich purveyor and its agency of record WorkInProgress hired laid-off production talent from around the country to shoot the footage in and around their homes.

The spots themselves are intended to highlight the kind of at-home moments people are experiencing, as well as show how people are slowly reemerging, according to the company.

In order to locate the needed photographers and videographers, WorkInProgress created a database of workers from all over the U.S. spearheaded by chief creative officer Matt Talbot.

Jimmy John’s was not only, in Talbot’s words, offering “to help people buy food in a tough time at a good price,” but also to “put work in people’s pockets.”

Pandemic-related layoffs and furloughs happened fast at creative agencies. As Talbot began to hear about people having trouble getting work, he realized there was going to be a great deal of talent that would normally be out on shoots just sitting at home, sparking the idea for the initiative.

The new campaign was as much about helping the creative community as it was about luring customers back to the restaurants. “And, creatively, to not make compromises [and] do work we’re proud of even if a from-home content solution,” he added.

For Dugan, these past three months have been a fast learning curve, as he jumped on board with Jimmy John’s in early March just before the pandemic took hold in the U.S. He previously was vp of marketing at burger chain Sonic Drive-In, a sister company to Jimmy John’s under parent company Inspire Brands.

@RichCollings richard.collings@adweek.com Richard Collings is a retail reporter at Adweek.