It's one thing when your brand hires kids in their teens and twenties to serve as ambassadors and act goofy. (Search YouTube for "Quiznos Cups" to see countless young people wearing inflatable Quiznos Q Cup costumes in public on behalf of the brand to see what we mean.) But it's quite another when they don't get paid.
Some laggard behavior by a guerrilla marketing agency retained by Quiznos is casting a bad light on the brand. Looking to ramp up its street teams and local marketing efforts in the US, Quiznos retained a firm called Ambient Planet to help recruit brand ambassadors to pass out coupons, among other duties.
Ann Gray answered one such ad, placed on Craigslist, and was duly hired to hand out 4,000 coupons over four days, working a total of sixteen hours. The ad promised $18/hour. She finished the gig right after Thanksgiving, very much looking forward to the $500 remuneration. She's still waiting.
"[I've made] emails, phone calls, messages, no response whatsoever and then I was Googling and I found this forum where hundreds of people from all of the U.S. had the same story," says Gray.
She's not alone. Another example:
“Worked a Quizno's PROMO 2 hours away from my home office on 8/3,8/10,8/12,8/17 & 8/19/10 a total of 21 hours as Manager. I also had a Brand Ambassador work the same days. Neither of us has been PAID.”
Still another complaint:
“Has anyone worked for Ambient Planet? I worked an event for them back in March 12-17 and according to their contract they pay within 30 days. This week I have tried an email and calling the company but have not gotten any replies to my payment status requests.”
We called Ambient's New York office and were referred to its London head office and told to ask for Alan. We did just that, and were informed by a woman who answered that it was not the right number for Ambient Planet and she knew nothing about Quiznos.
When we asked to speak with Alan, she said he was in a meeting. When we asked if he was related to Ambient Planet, she said he was the owner. We left our contact information — and we're still waiting for a response.
Turns out the Quiznos brand ambassadors were ahead of us on this one, with some of the unpaid brand ambassadors appealing directly to the Alan in question — Alan Dean, who runs Media Initiatives Group, the UK owner of Ambient Planet.
Media Initiatives Group Ltd (MIG) describes itself as “an innovative market leader and media sales organization.” They boast an impressive roster of brand clients for which they arrange street teams, brand ambassadors and guerrilla in-market campaigns, including ABC, Delta, Dove, HBO, Staples, Verizon, and Famous Footwear.
According to a WSYR radio report, Quiznos is no longer doing business with Ambient and promises to pay up: "The Quiznos company acknowledges that the company it hired has been slow paying the employees. The sandwich chain says it is now working with the parent company of Ambient Planet in London to make sure everyone is paid fairly. Quiznos says they are no longer doing business with the company."
We also hear that another outfit called Attack! has picked up where Ambient left off, searching for “10 Professional, Outgoing and Totally Reliable Promotional Staff to work a 4 day promotion for Quiznos!! You will be hand distributing Quiznos coupons and spreading brand awareness to local businesses. If you have open availability, are positive, punctual, are able to travel to the market listed below and enjoy interacting with the public - sign up today!!!”
We trust that Quizno's will do better by its brand ambassadors going forwrad, because let's face it — shoddy treatment of your brand ambassadors, even via a third party, reflects poorly on your brand.
The Quiznos website opines, “We dare to be different. Heck, if it doesn't come from Quiznos, it's gonna leave you cold!”
Right now, there are some still freezing brand ambassadors out there waiting for a little Ambient-owed warmth. And cash.