Apr 27, 2009


Subway: Good Night, and Good 'Chuck'

Wanna save "Chuck"? If you've got five bucks, and aren't averse to processed deli meats, you might just be able to help.


In fact, Subway-loving fans of NBC's Monday night dramedy already may have done their part to keep the show on the air.

A few weeks ago, "Chuck" featured a pretty prominent product placement for Subway. We're talking characters lovingly caressing a footlong sub, with one even mentioning the company's "$5 footlongs" slogan in a scene.

Unlike Tina Fey's casual mention of McDonald's McFlurry on "30 Rock" last year, the Subway love in "Chuck" was paid for. It generated plenty of attention on Madison Avenue, including a glowing writeup in AdAge.

Subway marketing officer Tony Pace told the magazine it was happy with the arrangement. But TVMoJoe has learned that "happy" may have been an understatement.

According to two people familar with the situation, Subway's internal tracking of the "Chuck" promotion was off the charts. One source labeled it the best such product placement the restaurant chain has done "in several years."

And here's the kicker: Pace was so impressed with "Chuck's" impact on sandwich sales, he actually called a top NBC ad sales executive to let him know just how much Subway loved the Chuckster. What's more, Pace told NBC the company hoped the network decided to renew "Chuck" for another season.

An NBC source confirmed to TVWeek's Jon Lafayette that the call took place. Just what impact the conversation may have on NBC's decision remains to be seen. As big as Subway is, it's only one advertiser.

But that's not stopping "Chuck" lovers from attempting one last-ditch effort to demonstrate that the show's level of audience engagement—one of the hot buzzwords in TV circles these days—is off the chart.

As TVWeek reported earlier this month, a Twitter- and blog-based campaign has been brewing for weeks to convince "Chuck" fans to buy $5 footlongs today, the night of the show's season finale.

Unlike past Save Our Show stunts—my mom still has a box of "Jericho" peanuts sent to me by desperate fans—the "Chuck" effort is rooted in practicality. Networks get annoyed when their mailrooms are flooded with things they don't need. Happy advertisers, however, are always welcome.

The footlong plan is even generating support from TV critics. Time's James Poniewozik declared last week that he'll hold his nose and buy a footlong tonight (though he didn't promise to eat it). Ditto Entertainment Weekly Pop Watch blogger Whitney Pastorek, who's planning on downing a cold cut combo.

Me? At the risk of more snarky e-mails from rival network executives questioning my journalistic cred (Yeah, I changed my Twitter avatar to a "Save Chuck" logo for a week—sue me!), I'll be swinging by my friendly neighborhood Subway this evening as well. Turkey on wheat with extra lettuce and onions, salt and pepper and maybe some oregano.

By the way, if you want more information on the effort to Save "Chuck," this blog I've never heard of has a very handy and comprehensive roundup (thanks to Mo Ryan via Twitter).

  • Posted April 27 at 9:25 AM


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