Subway Freshbuzz: Online Ads for Breakfast, Marketing Success for Lunch?


Am I the only one that finds Burger King’s character “The King” profoundly creepy? Supposedly not, as Burger King recently split with their ad agency Crispin, the creators of that particular campaign. But no matter who their ad agency is, fast food restaurants aren’t known for spending a larger portion of their advertising dollars online. There are TV commercials and billboards in abundance, but why give so little attention to online advertising?

Subway recently broke rank and ran high profile ad-placements on the Yahoo and AOL homepages, advertising a BOGO sandwich sale. From April 18 – 29 customers could get two 6” subs for the price of one, the idea being that consumers would try Subway’s new breakfast offerings and would take another sandwich with them for lunch or share a breakfast sandwich with a friend.

subway free sandwich

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This is an interesting approach, attempting to leverage their already successful lunch and dinner options to raise awareness for their breakfast menu, and not without good reason. According to QSR Magazine, breakfast at quick serve restaurants has been showing steady growth over the past few years, and accounts for the majority of that industry’s growth. Some forecasts predict this trend will continue for several years. After visiting Subway’s website, it is clear that the chain is targeting the profitable commuter segment with their new breakfast campaign. Subway developed content on the site directing consumers to “flavorize their commute” as part of the promotion for the new menu items. Here, consumers can enter their starting and ending destinations and Subway will map out all Subway locations along their route to work. It appears that Subway is certainly hoping to increase foot traffic to their locations through the use of this new tool.

subway flavorize

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Subway ran two homepage placements on the 20th of April on AOL and Yahoo to promote their new breakfast offerings. Approximately 3/4 of the users who visited the Subway breakfast/deal page on the 20th arrived there via click-thru, confirming that the majority of traffic to the new product content was driven by exposure to the online campaign. Using data, I took at look at the campaign site’s ( daily reach and attention to get a better sense of the impact on site visitation. A pretty big surge in reach, the percentage of US internet users that visit a site, was achieved confirming that the campaign was a success in driving awareness for the new breakfast product offerings. The strongest spike in traffic was driven from the two high profile placements on both the AOL and Yahoo homepages on the 20th.

daily reach subwayfreshbuzz

In the two weeks before the campaign, the SubwayFreshBuzz domain had an average reach of about 1.87%. On the 19th the reach climbed to 8.48% and on the following day when the ads ran, reach peaked at 14.17%. We see a nearly identical spike in attention, the percentage of time spent on a domain as it relates to total time we collectively spend online, confirming consumer interest. The campaigns succeeded at driving traffic to the Subway brand site, confirming the success of the high profile placements. However, we do see that the reach and attention spikes were short-lived, given that an elevated level of activity on breakfast pages wasn’t maintained throughout the duration of the promotion. This shows that the high visibility placements were clearly the most effective means of advertising this offer.

daily attention subwayfreshbuzz

Subway also launched an email campaign on the 19th, which helped to drive people to the deal page. However, this might be a little biased as recipients of the promo email were most likely people who had signed up for the Subway deals newsletter. The question now is how did this campaign actually impact sales? Consumers have certainly shown interest in learning more about the product, but will this campaign help Subway take a bigger bite out of the QSR breakfast market? It looks like a good start.