Jan 29, 2008

Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire

If you ask your customers to make videos bashing your competitors, does that make you liable for their false or exaggerated claims?

According the today's New York Times, it's something Quizno's is about to find out.

It seems that Subway is suing them over videos made as part of a contest sponsored by the rival sandwich maker where Quizno's fans were asked to create videos that depicted "Quiznos sandwiches as “superior” to Subway’s."

It seems some of the contestants took that to heart, with one video showing a woman returning home with two sandwiches- a Quiznos for her husband and a Subway for her dog.

From my POV, it seems to defy the spirit of the law to allow companies to get their customers to do the dirty work for them. If a company is actually sponsoring a contest, then they need to be held accountable for the truthfulness of the resulting work. If the company has nothing to do with the videos, that's another story. But sponsoring a contest is essentially putting your seal of approval on it and holding your hands up and saying "Oh, but consumers created it. Not us!" is a disingenuous response better suited to 4th graders than to large corporations. I mean seriously, who are you fooling?

It will be interesting to see where the courts net out. Subway is claiming defamation, which is a lot more nebulous than false claims. Because I'm not sure you can actually slander a sandwich (the actual title of the Times' article, to give credit where it's due.) But if the videos fall outside of what would be acceptable under current law, then Quizno's deserves to take a hit.


LimitedTimeOffer said...

Personally I think Subway had the opportunity to take the high road here, and avoid comment altogether That said, I entirely agree with your sentiments, and believe Quizno's deserve a restraining slap if they think they've invented a legal device to slander their rivals.

ps. I'm sure Subway might prefer your version, but I think you have "a Subway for her husband and a Quiznos for her dog" reversed.

Alan Wolk said...

@LTO: Fixed! Thanks.

Jonathan Trenn said...

I'm not sure if Subway has a case here but I still think this is below the belt by Quiznos. A video with a woman insulting Subway (and by extension, Subway's customers) with the husband/dog video.

How is that supposed to get people to like Quiznos? It's not going to. It serves no purpose. It doesn't help the brand.

Part of the strategy on Subway's part here may be to show everyone how juvenile Quiznos is.

Anonymous said...

I see your point, but from an entertainment perspective, it's still better than the spokesrat they had years ago.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

“"Oh, but consumers created it. Not us!"”

I think this is the most important part. Quizno’s doesn’t get to have it both ways. On one hand, so-called man on the street interviews to prop up the brand previously “What women need–real meat!” and now using the public to hide behind a UGC guise when the heat comes down.

I mean after all, we don’t need consumers to make competitor's food look bad. How’s that any different than getting professional stylists to make Quizno’s look amazing for a photoshoot, you know?

Geez. If the product is good, then it doesn’t need tactics like this. Because if they allow this, then as Subway, I’m doing a spot on how expensive and how long it takes to get a Quizno’s sub made.

(Excuse me, oven-roasted sandwich.)

Anonymous said...

poor dog...

Unknown said...

Today, I read that the CMO for Quiznos said he wants to be the Pepsi to Subway's Coke.
At this rate, he has a good chance to be the RC Cola of the category.
My son wanted to do a video for their contest--Quiznos--and went with a couple of friends into a subway station at the beginning of the 6 line with the idea of doing something with Subway vs. Quiznos. They got stopped by transit cops; apparently since 9/11 they don't take kindly to videoing in Subways. The real sadness here is that the economics of provolone and cappacola has eliminated places run by a husband and wife who got their Italian bread fresh every day and piled on the charcuterie without regard to ounce counts to maximize the bottom line. On the other hand, I suppose places outside cities like San Francisco and New York and Boston don't have access to the Sullivan Street Bakery anyway. So fresh baked bread from frozen dough