Raising hopes that fans might hear a reprise of classic lines such as "Go long!" for tater tots, Sonic is bringing back "those two guys" who sat in a car outside Sonic restaurants in TV commercials for eight years, letting their friendship humorously unfold over bites of Sonic burgers and whatever special the chain was running.
With a new, character-driven viral campaign seeded on a mock website, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and, er, LinkedIn, America's fourth-largest fast-food chain is bidding to have the two guys join Old Spice's Isaiah Mustafa and Ford's Focus Doug in the pantheon of heroes of recent marketing campaigns that have relied heavily on social media.
Sonic made the initial part of the campaign look like a rogue bid by the duo — played by actors T.J. Jagodowski and Peter Grosz — to return to their brand-sponsored roles — a job-seeking bid that makes having a fake LinkedIn profile — the first branded characters with LinkedIn profiles? — make sense. "We want our old jobs back," explains a Facebook page featuring the two. "Now we make our own commercial-things without permission from the man."
Actually, Sonic may have erred by putting the two out to pasture in 2010 because "if they stayed around, they really would have come into their own in the social-media context," Jeff Goodby, co-chairman of new Sonic agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, told the New York Times.
But while the depiction of the two characters as "unemployed" may resonate with Sonic customers in a nation where the unemployment rate remains above 8%, and is especially high among younger workers, Goodby insisted that the job-seeking premise wasn't the basis of the new campaign — more like a way into it.
Sonic also earned some social-media buzz last month when a video (below) of Giorgio Fareira, a talented musician from Connecticut, went viral, showing him singing his order into a microphone while a good-natured Sonic employee plays along. The video became a viral hit on YouTube, earning Fareira an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, while his album is climbing on iTunes.
Sonic's rehired two guys probably don't need talk-show appearances to be happy. They'll settle for having their old front seats in the car in the Sonic parking spot.