Seeing Subs Lately? That’s Subway’s SUBliminal Advertising

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Subway subliminal advertising in Chicago

Whether it’s via alien spacecraft invasion or a seemingly random group of dots into a pixelated image, Subway’s new marketing campaign is designed to have people “Seeing Subs”—in subtle, surprising and perhaps even subconscious ways.

“SUBliminal” messaging is the point of a new marketing activation that “taps into subliminal messaging to build intrigue and conversation,” as the brand put it, “and gets people to wonder why they are suddenly craving a Footlong” sub from Subway.

The U.S. campaign kicked off last weekend with a 72-hour teaser campaign in which the messaging appeared across America in experiential, social, digital, cinema and TV expressions.

Phase one activations to seed the theme included a sub-shaped sand sculpture in San Diego, and “SUB” projections onto buildings and 3D chalk art in Chicago. Minimally branded five- and six-second spots have been popping up social media and TV, including during the NBA draft and World Cup, as well as in-theater spots during the opening weekend of the latest Jurassic Park adventure.

Phase 2: 15-second videos confirming, “You’re not crazy, you’re just hungry. Feed your SUBconscious here.” The campaign aimed to reach people “during those lean-in moments when they are most likely to question what they just saw.”

Instagram stories showed a footlong sub glitching in and out of focus while Snapchat created a version of the UFO ad with an accompanying filter. On Twitter, themed to the Jurassic World opening weekend, GIFs feature footlong-loving dinosaurs.

Subway has faced a spate of recent problems including flagging sales and disputes with franchisees, so the one-time king of healthful fast eating is still trying to rediscover its marketing mojo. Its last big campaign, which ran during the Winter Olympics in February, featured youthful stunts such as flame-throwing and snowboarding—a more extroverted effort than its current SUBliminal marketing.

Say when! We’re not mind readers…

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