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Subway Scrabble Spells L-A-M-E

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This series takes a candid look at the advertising being crammed onto your television screens and into your heads. Is it really good advertising, or just wasting a commercial break? Reader suggestions are always welcome.

We all love a good contest, and giveaways are even better. What more could a consumer want than to be given stuff for free, especially when the list of free stuff to get includes money? No better way to get folks excited than to throw big numbers around.

Enter Subway, who apparently decided that the best way to combat Quizno's knocking their product was not to improve their product, but to have a giveaway. Enter Subway Scrabble, where they give away a bunch of free food, and even $100,000 to anybody who is patient and persistent enough to try. The contest is one thing, but their attempts to get the public interested are something else entirely.

We see our cute couple headed to Subway for lunch, but their entrance is interrupted by a guy who is so drenched, he needs to give a little wet-dog shake before he can comfortably take another sip from his soda. Puzzled, they continue inside, only to cross paths with yet another soaked-but-happy patron. As we the audience also begin to wonder, we learn about the contest, where you could win up to $100,000.

Cue another Subway customer, who is so ecstatic over his instant-win piece, he launches his uncovered cup of soda all over the little girl next to him. She, of course, continues to smile, since soda baths are her thing. Sure it's clever, people so excited they don't mind an afternoon smelling like Coke, but could we get some logic in here?

If you actually *gasp* listen to the contest, you'll notice that the only way you can win the money is to collect game pieces and enter yourself in an online drawing. The only thing you can get instantly is food and drinks. Now, this is no surprise, since that is standard practice with fast-food giveaways, as anyone who has taken their friends and game pieces to McDonalds for half a dozen free small Cokes can attest.

Subway, on the other hand, has chosen to insult what little intelligence we have left by telling us that we'll spill our soda in excitement over the opportunity to win a free six-inch sub sandwich. I appreciate the need for creativity, but I'm sorry, I don't buy it.

About Geeves the Butler

  • DMD

    Where’s the real beef? The least you could’ve done is included some references. I like Subway and have always preferred it over Quiznos even if their commercials are lame. All commercials are trying to grab your attention with stupid little skits…..get over it and write about what you know. You could actually do something productive during a commercial break and decide to help out your girlfriend/wife/mother.

  • geeves

    i appreciate that the point of advertising is to get your attention by being clever, but you don’t need to get outlandish for it to work.

  • Ray Ellis

    Actually, geeves, You’re wrong. People remember the outlandish, the silly, the incongruous. You might want to check out–oh, I don’t know– any successful commercial of the last fifty years.

  • geeves

    AGAIN. i said you don’t NEED to be outlandish to make it work. i know that outlandish often does work. i personally have seen many that i loved – though many of them, from beginning to end, were ads that were blatantly unusual and different, not just trying to turn a normal situation into the outrageous in order to suit whatever they’re trying to promote.

  • Ray Ellis

    Fair enough. So how would you have sold the promotion?

  • geeves

    hm. i don’t know if i would have chosen Scrabble as the game to partner with.

    i understand that it’s a money giveaway, and the easiest way to get people to play is to make them think it’s easy to win. what better way to do that than with an ad full of excitement?

    i know! *sarcasm* since it’s subway, why not the Subway Hungry Hungry Hippo contest? Seriously. You have a more direct food reference, it’s more kid friendly (which is a better market to target for prize action anyway), and you can make it like the game, the more you collect, the more you win…

    within limits of course, we don’t want anybody writing to subway about the fighter jet they didn’t win.

  • Ray Ellis

    That would be okay, except for the fact it would be illegal. You can’t target kids with cash giveaways.

  • geeves

    sorry, i should have specifically stated that they would be collecting towards prizes, not money. (that makes me wonder if you got the fighter jet joke)

  • El Bicho

    Logic in a commercial? You mean like a little man made of playdough helping people make rolls or elves that live in trees making cookies? The trick to advertising is to be memorable, not realistic. If you are really insulted by this, odds are you are a tad too sensitive. If you wait long enough, you should see a commercial for a pill that will help.

  • 3D

    I am proud of the commenters here for calling the original post out on its silliness.

    I really don’t see anything wrong with the Subway-Scrabble promotion. They’re giving away the $100,000 and a bunch of other stuff in addition to the free 6″ sandwiches. It’s not like they’re only giving the sandwiches away, although that’s what one might think from just reading this blog post. The post is more misleading than the commercial.

  • nicolas

    try reading the other posts in this series. the point i am trying to make through all this is that you have to get people’s attention with advertising, and the best way to do that is to be clever. however, many of the ads ride a fine line between genuinely clever and stupid clever – like the old budweiser “wassup” ads.

    the ad is people spilling soda all over the place in excitement. i get that winning SOMEthing is still exciting, but it was unnecesarily over the top.

    thanks for joining the discussion a year later.

  • craig

    Advertisements are stupid, condescending, misleading, patronizing, loud, annoying and intrusive… this is news to someone?

  • Me

    Nice catch phrase. Who are you s’posed to be Cronkite?

  • Scrabble help

    lol, people don’t seem to like you much do they?
    Well I agree with you! But mostly because I don’t like the idea of people pouring juice all over me!

  • nikki

    i know its a year later from the original post but they are once again doing the subway scrabble.

    your dissing subway scrabble for the wrong reasons. the real problem is that its near to impossible to win. and every one knows that. even if you eat at subway every day theres a very, VERY slim chance of ever winning the real prizes. you’d have to be incredibly lucky.

    all this promotion is doing, is making the subway stores lose money from having to give away free subs, cookies, and drinks constantly.

  • Jesse

    You would have to be seriously mentally impaired to post a narrative about the fact that Subway Scrabble is a stupid commercial/promotion. ITS A PROMOTION, not a life changing epic about a man’s walk through life. Jesus people. You can get on with your life now. I have saved you all agonizing hours of making fun of commercials.

  • rachel

    this subway scrabble game is a scam! I have 2 letter R’s sitting in my scrabble tray online, and it wont let me put the R’s down on the board where there are empty R’s in “fresh/bread” and “Trip.” I’ve emailed support numerous times and they keep suggesting to refresh my browser, allow cookies, turn off pop up blocker, try again later when its not such a busy time, try from a different computer,,…. etc. I’ve tried all of these things and my online scrabble board still wont let me lay down my 2 R’s on empty R spaces on the board. I’ve even asked technical support if they would manually place it on the board for me and they told me they cant do it. (OKAY…so does that mean I’ll never get to use these R’s?) The game doesnt work. Technical support’s advice has failed. and no one at subway seems willing to help. This online game has awful technical problems that need to be fixed! I paid my money to play, only to find myself in a situation where i can’t even place the pieces I have on the board. I hold my letter R in front of an empty R space, and the board lights up with a square surrounding the empty letter R’s on the board, but it still wont let me place my R down.

  • Matt

    Yeah, I just got an R and I look on the sheet and low and behold, no place for an R, wha???

    That’s like the McDonalds monopoly game giving me a sticker for ‘Malibu Heights’, a property which isn’t even on the board.

  • Jay

    Well Matt, there are 2 places for R, Ai”R”line and T”R”ip. I have both filled.

    And Rachel, it IS on your end.. why can so many people put their letters down? I have. I am missing about 1 in each section.. And no, I do not eat much subway.. my co-workers do ;) hehe I might once a month if anything, think I have 2 times since this started.

    Anyway, it’s not subways issue Rachel.

  • Jay

    Sorry to double post.

    Rachel, you do NOT need to use the online game board, Subway supplies you with a paper game board which you can use and has a phone number included if you win a prize.

  • user101

    You are genius. I have just written the same thing on my blog and when I was searching for something about subway I came across your post.

    I love it. I actually enjoy your entire site and will have to visit more often.

    Good call on this one.

  • chuck

    A good way to increase your chance of winning something is to go to different subways rather than going to the same one because you will most likely get the same thing. Don’t have to take my word for it but it seems like a good battle plan that is, if you have the money.

  • kat

    I don’t know why the person who originally posted this is so upset about someone soaking another person in soda. It’s a commercial. It’s not real. They might have been over the top but think about it, if you’re flipping through channels and skim past someone drenched in soda, odds are you will go see wat it was all about out of pure curiousity. That’s all Subway is trying to do, get your attention for a short minute or so to let you know all about their scam.

  • Donnie

    Blog post is years old and still being insulted.

    Seems like you’re just a Quiznos fanboy.

  • Robert

    The author must have had a traumatic experience with soda.

  • BENR

    yeah if the author did his research he would realize that in the subway rules and reg. they state that there are actually pieces that are instant wins for the trip, car and 100 k. Do your research before you bash a sandwich company.

  • Hart

    Actually if you read the promotion rules, they ARE giving away their more worthwhile prizes as both collect&win opportunities or instant wins. So you can instantly win a hybrid, island vacation, or $100,000. Yeah, odds are pretty low, but that’s to be expected. I go in get a footlong sub and drink for less than $5 (with these coupons they also give out) and then usually get free stuff with the instant win on the drink (1 in 6 odds of cookies, 1 in 12 of 21 oz. fuze beverage, 1 in 21 sunchips, 1 in 31 free 6″ sub… I’ve gotten at least one free thing every time, but i’d say at least 1 in 3 plays statistically should give you an extra SOMETHING for free)
    So you get a good deal on your food, often get free stuff, AND get game pieces that can be used to get more free stuff… not bad!

    So what’s your beef with them?

  • Nicolas

    And if you would READ THE ARTICLE you would see that i’m referring to the ORIGINAL ad campaign from TWO YEARS AGO.

    the newer commercials have been updated to include that instant-win information, and aren’t nearly as ridiculous. That’s why I haven’t been on here making any “oh geez here we go again” comments

  • Dan

    This blog post is stupid; i presume the people who came up with this concept have a little more experience than yourself in marketting!