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My Beef With Subway

August 8th, 2008 by Bob Bly

When you are imprecise with language in copywriting, it conveys an impression of sloppy thinking and can also undermine your credibility.

A case in point: the new commercial from Subway for their hot beef sandwich that says: “everybody wants to try Subway’s hot beef sandwich.”

The problem is that word “everybody” — which is so transparently an exaggeration that it defies believability.

Do people on low carb diets who are avoiding bread want this sandwich — which comes, of course, on bread?

What about vegetarians? Do they really want to try this new beef sub?

How about people that don’t like subs … people who don’t eat fast food … people who prefer ham or chicken to beef?

A better approach: “Beef lovers nationwide can’t wait to sink their teeth into Subway’s new Hot Beef Special Sandwich.”

This identifies the audience (meat eaters) and conveys the image of desirability and popularity while avoiding the obvious lie of “everybody.”


This entry was posted on Friday, August 8th, 2008 at 3:50 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

59 responses about “My Beef With Subway”

  1. My Beef With Subway said:

    […] Original blog – direct marketing blog […]

  2. Philip McLean said:

    I don’t have a problem with it. Yes, it’s an obvious exaggeration, but this kind of thing has been done for so long by so many that we’re desensitized to it by now.

  3. S.P. Gass said:

    I’d like to like Subway, the healthy fast-food restaurant. However, my problem with Subway is a peculiar smell I notice after eating there. My theory is that there is an encompassing smell that attaches itself to Subway visitors. I think phenomenon may be due to their in-house yeast/bread baking process.

  4. Internet Marketing Archives» Blog Archive » 'My Beef With Subway' by Bob Bly said:

    […] My Beef With Subway… […]

  5. Gerold Braun said:

    A good point made. I have some of these imprecise words on my own homepage-copy and feel uncomfortable with it. This afternoon, i will take a red pen and .. thanks Bob.

  6. michael lockyear said:

    “Beef lovers nationwide can’t wait to sink their teeth into Subway’s new Hot Beef Special Sandwich.”

    lol. nice and snappy.

    The problem I have with the ad is with the word “hot” – are we talking temperature, “spiciness” or “sexiness”!

  7. Bob Bly said:

    ML: “Hot” refers to temperature; the TV spot shows steam rising off the beef in a sandwich with the top half of the roll removed. Can’t remember if it’s roast beef or brisket.

  8. Ryan said:

    My favorite subject! I can rant forever about things I hate about commercials – television and print. The word “virtually”. How the first commercial is repeated again just before a show restarts. Exaggeration – we have a VW commercial on the radio asking what you can do with $199. Buy a new pair of jeans or lease their car? I buy my jeans at Costco for under 20 bucks. People who write commercials think we’re dumb?

  9. Lou Wasser said:

    I believe the ad writers (and therefore the folks at Subway) are depending on ad readers’ knee-jerk (irrational) response rather than their logical examination of the words. Copywriter mavens out there selling their wares to other copywriters depend on the same response when they write about tutorials and seminars which will enable students to write “kick-butt copy.”

    Such are the perils (or profits) of our business.

    An even more notable example of Bob’s point is the classic Sarah Lee commercial years ago:

    “Nobody doesn’t like Sarah Lee.”

    I believe if you still scour the Internet, you’ll find that even the Journal of Symbolic Logic takes that one to task.

  10. Bob Yokl said:

    This is the same company that for years used a once overweight person Jared to insinuate/imply that he lost all his weight by eating at Subway. They lost me a long time ago in my mind no matter what they do for just that reason.

    Now it’s all about Eat Fresh what happened to the losing weight thing…oh because their food has just as much or more FRESH calories as the next fast food place.

    Oh Congrats Jared for having lost your Fattness for 10-years now commercial. Imply, Imply, Imply but at least Jared is getting easy money!

  11. Jodi Kaplan said:

    I never particularly liked Subway. Their food smells like plastic, and their ad showing a hot pastrami sandwich with cheese is well, a sin.

    That said, I like Bob’s version better.

  12. Clarke Echols said:

    I stopped at a subway one night to get sandwiches for my wife and I while traveling. They wanted $2.00 for two paper cups of water!

    A few months ago, I tried the local Subway. I could spend another dollar and get a complete meal at a buffet restaurant a couple of blocks away.

    But my beef is those who say “everybody doesn’t”, when what they really mean is “not everybody does”. Big difference. The former means the same as “nobody does”, whereas the latter means “some people don’t”.

    Communication is framing your words so it is impossible to be misunderstood.


  13. Sean Deminski said:

    Bob, I love your eye for detail! I don’t think I ever caught the vagueness in that ad, and obviously you have been writing direct response for a long time!

    But couldn’t Subway be creating a “bandwagon appeal”?

    I had a English teacher in high school who spent a couple weeks teaching us logic and I think I recall there was a list of appeals and bandwagon was one of them.

    So can anyone explain the difference between identifying the audience and this bandwagon appeal? (at least in ad writing)

  14. user101 said:

    I agree with your point. So many other commercials use this type of assuming language that I really don’t pay attention to it anymore. Nevertheless, it’s something that could so easily be changed (as it’s so annoying), as you suggested.

    I, on the other hand, mentioned Subway at and their ridiculous contests, where it’s probably safe that everybody will lose at winning the grand prize.

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