Subway: Moving Fast Was ‘Smarter’

“We’re smarter than we were a year ago,” said Subway vice president of marketing Chris Carroll about last week’s surprise decision to hire Omnicom Group’s Goodby, Silverstein & Partners to handle its $300 million creative account. But the sandwich maker is also far more hard-pressed in the marketplace than it was when it last reviewed its account in 2003.

“A year ago, you didn’t have every quick-service restaurant brand doing healthy positioning,” Carroll said. “We have to re-establish that exclusive positioning.”

It seems speed was also of the essence for the company, which last week abruptly killed its review after only two weeks and summarily gave the business to the San Francisco-based agency.

Goodby said it would take on the account only if it were moved without a review, sources said. While Carroll declined to comment on that aspect of the decision, he noted, “We all just went through this [review] process, and it doesn’t guarantee anything,” referring to Subway’s eight-month stint with previous shop Publicis Groupe’s Fallon in Minneapolis. “We’re going to take the time they would have spent on the pitch to work together on the strategy.”

Regarding last week’s decision, agency chairman Jeff Goodby said only that “we are really happy to be working on it, and I think the work will show that.”

New York consultant Joanne Davis contacted about a dozen agencies at the end of July. Within a fortnight, however, Carroll and the Subway Franchisee Advertising Fund Trust board met with the same Goodby team that presented last year—including Jeff Goodby and director of account management Robert Riccardi—and struck a deal (see Art & Commerce, page 15).