A Heartbreaking Subway Ad of Staggering Genius

A Heartbreaking Subway Ad of Staggering Genius

On June 27, a fascinating video was unearthed by the Twitter feed of one Ryan Simmons, a video director for SB Nation. “Got another capitalism greatest hit,” he wrote. “I will give you one hundred thousand dollars if you can guess the brand by the end.”

It begins, as all art does, with birth. In this case, it is the birth of our unnamed sandwich-loving protagonist. He rapidly becomes a toddler over the course of a couple of brief, hazy shots, experiencing, among other things, birthdays, family reunions, first steps, and nightmares. Time passes quickly for the child. A sequence of images flashes before the screen. Storms. Horses. Friends. They throw rocks at bottles and roughhouse.

He floats in murky water, eyes closed. The boy is maturing, now in leaps and bounds as he turns from jejune adolescent to Oedipal peeping tom. Age brings new experiences, newfound strength. Childhood friends drift away like leaves in the wind. With a face pockmarked from shaving cuts and acne, he has his first kiss, only to see the girl grow distant and end up in the arms of another.

Flashing strobes illuminate the razor as he shaves his disheveled mane. Rebellion and rejection and suddenly, redemption. He’s better now, backpacking in China with regrown hair and a scruffy beard. Upon his return, he is a new man, better for his travels. He pauses in front of a mirror to tie his necktie and later walks into a store. A voiceover intones, “Every day, life asks the same question: what are you going to try today?” The cashier is out of focus at first, but the yellow-and-white logo gradually grows clearer and then there is no mistaking it. This contrived, operatic life story is a Subway ad. No sandwiches are shown, no sign that this has anything to do with the international chain of counter-service sub restaurants. Too much sandwich artistry, not enough sandwiches.

Now that is ineffective advertising.

Sure, more people than usual are talking about Subway. Not because of sincere appreciation for their products, but because of the confused bewilderment we all felt watching the ad. People might even be less inclined to buy sandwiches out of respect for the poor, beleaguered protagonist.

Effective communication is essential to advertising. You don’t want the brand at the end of your commercial to be a twist, you want thematic consistency. Would a car ad be as advantageous if there weren’t any vehicles in it? Advertising shouldn’t be confusing. Nobody wants to spend so much and get an ad that, while visually appealing, doesn’t drive any customer engagement.

With over 35 years in the field, the Miller Ad Agency knows effective advertising. If your business needs powerful, creative solutions that won’t leave your customers scratching their heads, give us a call at 972-243-2211 or go to milleradagency.com to learn more.

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