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Subway: you're the chef

Subway mobile ad campaign - C'est Vous Le Chef!

S4M won an award for a 'Most Effective Programmatic Buying Mobile Campaign' at the MOMA Awards 2017, for its work with Subway. Here the agency explains the background, objectives and strategy that made this an award-winning campaign.

Executive Summary

Subway is among many fast food players in an already competitive landscape with other established industry leaders. While the brand is a well-established household name, its restaurants are not always the ‘go-to’ choice when consumers are seeking a quick meal.

Subway’s restaurant presence across France is around one in every 10 fast food franchise. By leveraging the mobile medium and the possibility of real-time geolocation, we decided to launch a smartphone-only campaign to reach fast food consumers in the vicinities of Subway establishments and target these smartphone users with an engaging ad in the form of a desired service (a store-locator with opening hours and distance to restaurant).

The campaign also set out to target within the vicinities of four different competitor restaurants in France to convert other brand-loyal fast food consumers. Our ideal audiences are digitally savvy and well connected on their smartphones with short bursts of usage periods.

Smartphone is the most personal channel of communication today, so the campaign applied strict targeting parameters to ensure that only the intended audiences are exposed to the campaign on their devices. Doing so was an effort to respect mobile users and avoid an intrusive feeling for the end users from the brand. Combining real-time location data available from mobiles, each individual user received a personalised service to boost visits into Subway restaurants around France.


The principal business objective was to boost foot-traffic to Subway restaurants around France, ultimately increasing sales revenues for the restaurant chain. The goal was to drive 200,000 fast food consumers into Subway restaurants around France, as well as attributing online efforts with offline results.

A secondary objective was to boost visits around the vicinities of Subway restaurants and also redirect similar target audiences within the vicinities of four different competitors in France to a nearby Subway restaurant instead. To do so we wanted to leverage the native GPS functionalities of the smartphone and deliver a mobile-specific user experience to ensure the highest level of engagements.


We identified a mobile campaign as the best way to stand out among users because of the possibility to deliver a message tailored for each user. The brand identified smartphones as the best medium to reach consumers on-the-go both in the vicinities of its brick and mortar establishments and around those of their four biggest competitors around the country.

So a smartphone-only execution also took into consideration specific user behaviours based on various device operating systems (iOS and Android systems). Delivering the campaign around competitor locations was an active effort to enlarge Subway’s market share in the industry. To create a fast food consumer audience cluster, we identified and grouped smartphone IDs using historic and behavioural user.

Then, 30 days prior to the campaign, we collected anonymous device IDs at restaurant locations of four different competitors around France. These device IDs were divided into two groups, a control group, of users not exposed to the campaign, to evaluate results post-campaign.

The second group of IDs is the exposed group. During the campaign only users in the fast food audience cluster and the exposed group of IDs saw the campaign if they were within 400 meters of a Subway restaurant or one of the selected four competitor restaurants. To optimise the media budget, the campaign, was also only delivered during lunch (11:30am to 3pm) and dinner (6:30pm to 10pm) hours.

These users saw a unique video2store format where they first see a three second countdown before the video begins.

This countdown is to ensure a non-intrusive user experience giving users to exit the ad before the video begins to play. After seeing Subway’s campaign video each user will also see the actual distance to a nearby Subway restaurant form their real-time location. Converted users can click on the call-to-action that leads them into the native map application in their mobile with a store locator and travel itinerary.

Finally, we created two different creative formats for the iOS and Android operating systems to ensure the most seamless user experience and to be able to leverage native functionalities of each smartphone.

We applied real-time geolocation data to enrich the creative format so each individual saw a tailored message with the distance to a nearest Subway restaurant. Strict targeting parameters also ensured that only the most relevant audiences were targeted to reduce the number of wasted impressions on uninterested smartphone users.

The overall strategy was about reaching fast food consumers in the most efficient, respectful and verifiable way possible while avoiding waste in ad spend and the possibility to measure digital online efforts in offline restaurant locations.


The campaign applied strict counting standards for impressions and page visits delivered. Overall 5,888,086 ad requests were counted but after filtering out fraud only 4,748,457 impressions were 100% rendered plus one second on the smartphone. Initial campaign objective was to achieve 200,000 visits to the store locator but the campaign optimisation and specific targeting exceeded the goal by 31% acquiring 262,160 visits within 30 days.

We also saw a high click-through-rate of 4.26%, an impressive rate when compared to an industry benchmark of 1.6%. Finally, we compared the total users exposed to the campaign versus users not exposed, the results showed an impressive 46.72% uplift of visits to Subway restaurants all across France.

In one example where users saw the campaign in the vicinity of a competitor restaurant, 39.44% of the traffic were redirected to a nearby Subway restaurant instead.

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