Sunday, April 26, 2009

Chuck Versus Subway

I came across this video of Chuck star Zachary Levi leading an estimated 600 people into a Subway restaurant to order the infamous $5 footlong subs. Avid watchers of Chuck may have noticed these subs making a few appearances this season, especially in the last few episodes.

NBC's Chuck has never been a winner in the Nielsen's ratings game but it's had a pretty rabid fanbase since the beginning. The noticeable increase in quality this season has no doubt lead to a lot of growth in that audience, too. And so now it's sweeps time.

It's been well documented that Chuck sits precariously on the bubble and may not make a return for a third season, so that rabid fan base has begun what every rabid fan base of every threatened to be or already canceled show does - they start a campaign.

Most campaigns consist of online petitions, trying to get people to watch the show, et al. The best come up with some quirky way to let the network know they mean business, such as fans of Jericho inundating CBS offices with peanuts when the show was canceled a couple of years ago. Recently I posted about Slate's The Big Money's recommendation for online streaming.

The Chuck masses have been doing the online petitions and mail campaigns as usual, they've also taken to mailing Nerds candy but the big news online today is a push to get fans to buy $5 footlong subs from Subway restaurants tomorrow, the day they air the season finale.

At first I wondered if this was a real grassroots campaign or just a viral marketing trick secretly put together by Subway and NBC marketing creeps to see how many subs they could sell, sort of like cops sending plain clothes officers into protests to start riots but then I noticed the end of the post on Zachary Levi's page thanking Wendy Farrington. A quick google of the name and I came across a letter:

Hi Everyone,

As I’m sure you’re aware Chuck is struggling to find an audience amidst a very competitive Monday 8pm line-up and is in danger of not being picked up for a 3rd season. I’ve done my duty and written my letters to the network, but given the economy and the Jay Leno effect, I’m not confident that will be enough. I wanted to request your help to promote a ‘Save Chuck’ strategy that goes beyond the standard fare of sending letters or bobbles to the networks. What I’m proposing is a consumer driven campaign that will lend a voice to all the loyal Chuck fans that are not represented by Nielson ratings.

With the changing media landscape, the key demographic that most advertisers are seeking is also the segment most likely to be viewing TV programming in non-traditional ways (online, DVR, iTunes, etc.). Nielson ratings are not as strong an indicator of advertising value as they once were, but they remain the industry standard because there are precious few ways to demonstrate and really capture the success of product promotion in this digital age.

As a non-Nielson viewer, I feel the most effective means of making an impact is to wield my consumer power in a way that NBC and their sponsors will be able to measure. I’ve noticed that Subway has worked with Chuck/NBC to incorporate product placement within the show. To demonstrate my gratitude to that franchise for their support of Chuck, I’m pitching a ‘Finale & FOOTLONG™’ campaign to all the Chuck forums and boards. I’m also sending this idea out to key TV critics who’ve been supportive of Chuck, asking them to write articles and raise awareness for this effort. Included below is a list of the boards, forums, and critics to whom I’ve sent this concept.

The ‘Finale & FOOTLONG™’ campaign will call on fans to show their dedication by pledging to purchase a $5 FOOTLONG™ from Subway on the evening of the Chuck season finale (which hopefully isn’t the series finale). If enough Chuck fans ban together to do this and Subway sees a rise in sales Monday April 27th as a result, it would give NBC/Universal an actual metric to gauge the fan dedication in relation to the return on investment of a key sponsor.

At the end of the day, the television industry is still a business and I hope other fans will recognize that fact and organize with me to show their support in a tangible way. I’ve sent in my ‘Save Chuck’ letters to Ben Silverman (NBC) and Angela Bromstad (Universal) including this idea, but I really need the help of other Chuck fans to drive this program and make it happen. To that end, I’ve also sent a letter to the Chief Marketing Officer at Subway (Mr. Bill Schettini) outlining the effort I’m putting forth to galvanize the show’s loyal fan base to reward their sponsorship of our beloved Chuck.

Chuck is in one of the toughest timeslots on television and continues to hold its own against fierce competition on every major network. The cast is fantastic, the story is compelling, and I truly believe the show deserves another season (hopefully on Wednesday’s at 8pm). The best way to save Chuck is to give NBC/Universal a legitimate business justification for keeping their quality programming on the air. It’s more likely that the network and sponsors will hear our pleas for a Chuck renewal if we speak their language…$$$. So fans, please write your letters, mention the campaign, and buy a $5 FOOTLONG™ from Subway on April 27th (bonus points for those that drop off a comment card saying they’re buying their sandwich in support of Chuck.)

Put a reminder on your calendar, alarm on your phone, whatever it takes to remember…personally I’ll be buying my sandwich from Newark International Airport after an 8hr flight on the 27th, but I’m going to do it! If the mods for this board or forum would be so kind as to post a reminder on April 27th as well, that would be phenomenal! Thanks for listening and I hope I can count on your support.

Warmest Regards,

Wendy Farrington

FYI – I swear on all that is holy, I do NOT work for Subway or any marketing/media based company. I’m just a lowly sales rep in the pharma industry, who happens to have an underused undergraduate degree in marketing and a deep affection for CHUCK.

I guess all we can do is take that FYI and trust that it's not some NBC marketing guru being extra-jerky. It's a good idea, though, which makes me seriously doubt that it actually came from someone in the marketing department because, really, when was the last time a TV series had a good, in depth, evolving marketing campaign? I can't think of many.

We get something like "Save The Cheerleader, Save The World" once every few seasons with no growth or continuation, so really, I doubt NBC would have been smart enough to pull this off.

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