Quiznos Hopes to Scare Up New Business With Killer Lobsters

Uses ad tech to claw its way out of bankruptcy

Sandwich chains can serve fancy food, too. Just check out Quiznos' lobster roll offering, which—like many fish-sandwich pitches this week—is back in the Lental limelight, along with the company out of bankruptcy.

Last summer, Quiznos looked all but dead, with 2,100 sinking stores around the country and overseas. However, it's emerged from bankruptcy like a giant lobster clawing out of the sea, which happens to be the theme of its new video ads effort. The agency Windowseat developed the spots.

Post-bankruptcy, Quiznos has rethought its marketing while bypassing agencies to place digital promos. Instead, it hired TubeMogul, a digital video ad-buying platform, to help execute online campaigns and forgo more expensive TV ad buys, according to the company, which spoke to Adweek about its new advertising approach.

"This is our first foray into online video," said Tim Kraus, Quiznos' head of digital interactive. "I mean, we've done YouTube before but never anything like this at a mass scale."

A TubeMogul spokesman added, "Video is now Quiznos' primary brand-building medium as their target is young males."

A number of brands have started going around agency gatekeepers to control their own programmatic ad buys, going direct to services like TubeMogul, which uses technology and data to automate online marketing.

Some brands feel they have the homegrown how-to for programmatic, including the talent, the data, the ability to target the right users, etc. Agencies and media holding companies contend the complexities of digital ad buying require their unique brand of expertise to win at these online ad auctions. Indeed, therein lies a bit of marketplace friction. TubeMogul counts brand clients like Allstate, Hotels.com and Foxtel that rely on its programmatic buying platform.

"Programmatic helps companies and large organizations move a lot faster," said Brett Wilson, TubeMogul CEO.

For Quiznos, the reliance on data-powered ad buying is a cost-control measure to only serve ads when it is confident that the user on the other end is a relevant consumer, Kraus said. The company is keeping close watch on its marketing spend now that it's emerged from bankruptcy.

"We only want to pay when the data [shows] that we know this is the right customer," Kraus said.

Part of that strategy is to only display ads to consumers in ZIP codes near its stores during times of day they are likely to eat. The company also is incorporating other technologies like iBeacons, which are installed in retail locations to measure traffic and show how effectively the digital ads were driving customers. "The goals are to send text offers to people to drive in-store visits and tie back data on in-store visits to mobile advertising." Quiznos said in an email about the iBeacon tests.

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