5 New Advertising Ideas for the Subway Footlong

Don Draper would approve.

I’m no expert, but what’s a few inches between friends?

If the inches in question belong to Subway’s “footlong” sandwiches, friendship has nothing to do with it. Outraged customers from Australia to New Jersey have accused the world’s largest fast-food chain of pinching an inch from its trademark “footlongs.”

Naturally, billable hours are involved. Plaintiffs in New Jersey and Illinois last week sued Subway in state courts, with another Garden State plaintiff filing a class-action suit in U.S. District Court. All claim that Subway’s $5 “footlong” specials are in reality less than the advertised 12 inches. Show them the money.

Though deceptive advertising, in principle, is no laughing matter, the Case of the Missing Inch is low-hanging fruit for those of us blessed with a perverse sense of humor. (Did I mention that my nickname is Twisted Shister?) In fact, this one makes both my comedic cups runneth over.

For starters, has anyone noticed that all the plaintiffs are men, as well as the Aussie teenager who sparked the debate? When Matt Corby pulled out a tape measure for his just-purchased “footlong” sub in Perth, it only registered 11 inches (uncut). He posted the photo on Subway Australia’s Facebook page, clever lad, and it quickly went viral.

At first glance, one could surmise that the boys are far more invested in that missing inch than are the ladies. The irony here is inescapable, given that heterosexual men have been known to argue that size doesn’t matter—much to the amusement of heterosexual women.

Meanwhile, the ubiquitous Subway finds itself caught in a public relations shit sandwich. With 38,695 restaurants in 100 countries—including dozens in the Philadelphia area—it serves nearly 2,800 sandwiches and salads per minute, according to its website. (Take that, Mickey D’s.)

The menu of five-buck “footlongs” includes Black Forest Ham, Cold Cut Combo, BLT, Egg and Cheese, Veggie Delite, and this month’s featured “footlong,” Chipotle Chicken & Cheese. (“It’s like fireworks for your taste buds!”)

In a statement last week, the Connecticut-based company issued its regrets. Sandwich length can vary, it said, when franchises don’t bake to exact corporate specifications. It will reinforce policies to ensure consistency among all its restaurants, it added.

To that end, I offer a few modest proposals for new Subway advertising campaigns that are guaranteed to please even the most finicky of size queens.

“Twelve inches—measure it yourself!”

“Size matters, especially when you’re eating it!”

“No shrinkage in our footlongs!”

“We hate to brag, but …”

As a value-added incentive, I suggest that a miniature tape measure, tastefully wrapped in crisp bacon and a ribbon, be given with every “footlong” purchase.

Once the sandwich is measured and consumed, imagine the possibilities. Customers will love it, especially those over 18. All hail, Subway. Those of us who are about to measure salute you.