Subway: Good Night, and Good ‘Chuck’

Apr 27, 2009  •  Post A Comment

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).


  1. Have you heard about the English efforts that took place to save the show yesterday? Zachary Levi was in the country for a Chuck con and he took around 400-600 fans to the local Subway to buy subs to save the show. He also got behind the counter and helped make EVERY SINGLE SANDWICH. There’s footage all over YouTube of it all.

  2. Was the internal tracking and call to NBC before the launch of the fan campaign? Has there been any reaction from Subway about the fans’ grassroots efforts?

  3. Here’s the link to one of the better videos of the Zac led Subway charge: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDtePZ1MFT0
    To say that Subway is getting their money’s worth is an understatement! Seems everything I see today, from peoples facebook status’, entertainment blogs (see TVguide, Entertainment Weekly, etc) is promoting the $5 footlong drive.

  4. KN: The Subway call came as the fan campaign was being launched.
    Vee: Yes, I have seen it. GiveMeMyRemote has the video!

  5. I guess the secret to good product placement is choosing the right audience and just rolling with it. Chuck fans like myself *loved* how shameless Subway was in their promotion. I actually laughed at the ballsy move when I watched it live.

  6. That’s such good news. I just rallied a couple friends and we each bought a footlong (though not the five dollar ones). Not only did I turn them all on to Chuck, but we all have recognized our love of Subway again. So what a good campaign this has turned out to be.

  7. What’s struck me when delving into this campaign is how diverse the viewership is for this show. It seems to grab men and women, and with a pretty good age range. I really think this show has commercial potential — it’s just so much fun.
    And I’ll be eating a chicken teriyaki sub tonight, Big Mike-style.

  8. What are the chances of getting a follow-up from Subway insiders about the “internal tracking” or any kind of response, anonymous or otherwise, after the show’s finale?
    Thank you for reporting on this.

  9. Further footage shot by me of UK, European and other fans with Zach at the Birmingham [UK] visit:-

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