Sandwich Spin, Served Up Fresh

Local stations make a cold cut combo out of a Subway VNR and SMT

Submitted by Daniel Price on
Clients: Subway
Release Date: January 2006
Aired By: 4 stations
Disclosed By: No stations

Ever since Jared Fogle lost 245 pounds in one year, Subway has embarked on a marketing strategy unique among fast-food chains—that their sandwiches can help you slim down. In January 2006, the company enlisted the Fleishman-Hillard PR firm to spearhead their "Fresh Resolution" program, a month-long campaign to make Subway part of the public's perennial resolve to lose weight in the new year. The campaign—launched with "an exclusive Dec. 27 story pitched to the Associated Press"—sought to boost sales during January and February, the "'slow months' for the fast-food business," according to the March 2006 O'Dwyer's PR Report.

Fleishman-Hillard, in turn, contracted D S Simon Productions to create both a video news release (VNR) and a satellite media tour (SMT) revolving around the Fresh Resolutions promotion. While the VNR was a simple fake health news feature that primarily starred Fogle, the SMT was a double-act: a live remote interview with Fogle and Audrey Cross, an associate clinical professor of public health at Columbia University.

In a ten-day period, four different stations used a combination of the VNR and the SMT to build a news feature. KGAN-2 (Cedar Rapids, IA), KYTX-19 (Tyler, TX) and WJXT-4 (Jacksonville, FL) ran segments that were mostly built from the VNR, with recorded soundbites from a satellite interview edited into the story. In all three cases, the station used branded graphics to disguise the video as their own product, and enlisted an in-house reporter to re-voice the narrative audio provided by D S Simon publicist Jim Lawrence.

WHP-21, the CBS affiliate in Harrisburg, PA, was the only station to air a live remote interview with Fogle and Cross, but editors intermittently mixed in footage from the VNR.

None of the stations divulged to viewers that Subway was the funding source for the video news footage and the satellite interview. It may have seemed obvious to some, since Fogle is a nationally-recognized spokesman for Subway. But the fact remains that D S Simon used a Columbia University professor and a health news angle to blur the line between reporting and advertising, and four TV newscasts happily played along.

WHP-21 was subsequently observed airing a Valentine's Day VNR sponsored by a floral industry trade alliance. KYTX-19 is featured twice more in this report, once for a participating in a holiday-themed SMT funded by five different companies, and once for incorporating a complete VNR on pancakes sponsored by General Mills/Bisquick.

View the original VNR, as well as the WHP-21 interview with Jared Fogle and Audrey Cross, below.

Original Subway VNR WHP-21 6AM newscast
Created by D S Simon Productions January 11, 2006
Features Jared Fogle and Audrey Cross SMT interview with Fogle and Cross