Mr. Sub fires BOS after complaints of homophobia

Mr. Sub has fired its agency BOS after the sandwich chain was accused of promoting homophobia in its latest advertising campaign. The “not everyone likes surprises” advertising broke in late September with three humorous spots, two for TV and one online, based on the insight that customers know what to expect when they dine at […]

David Brown October 05, 2009

Mr. Sub has fired its agency BOS after the sandwich chain was accused of promoting homophobia in its latest advertising campaign.

The “not everyone likes surprises” advertising broke in late September with three humorous spots, two for TV and one online, based on the insight that customers know what to expect when they dine at Mr. Sub.

It was the online execution, originally scheduled for a TV run next year, that became the subject of a letter/e-mail writing campaign by the CAW (Canadian Auto Workers). The ad showed a family sitting around the dining room table when the father cheerfully announces that he’s gay. Upon questioning by a grimacing young girl who is presumably his daughter: “You mean like gay, gay?” he responds, patting her on the head affectionately: “Like super, super gay.”

After hearing complaints from some of the CAW’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members, the union began contacting other members last weekend advising them of the spot and recommending they contact Mr. Sub to express their displeasure, said Shannon Devine, a CAW communications director.

“In the last few days, the sandwich chain Mr. Sub has come out with a new commercial which is shocking (and completely ridiculous) in the way that it mocks the LGBT community,” wrote Devine in one e-mail. “This is offensive and we must let Mr. Sub know that making fun of our LGBT sisters and brothers and the very difficult and often painful coming out process is no way to sell submarine sandwiches.”

In her letter to Mr. Sub president Jack Levinson, Devine said making light of the coming out experience was inappropriate. “In fact, coming out to one’s family and friends is a major cause of stress and anguish as people face the rejection, misunderstanding and outward disapproval of their loved ones.”

By Wednesday, the union was told by Mr. Sub in an unsigned e-mail from Mr. Sub’s “Information & Help Line” that it “decided to end its relationship with BOS, as clearly this campaign has not met the objective of positively engaging with our customers.” The note from Mr. Sub also said “all possible efforts have been taken to remove the ad from Internet websites.”

Marketing first reported on the campaign Sept. 24 and has since received no requests from Mr. Sub to take down the ad.

“We were actually quite pleased with [Mr. Sub’s] response,” said Devine. “They wrote back very quickly to the letters and then they did discontinue their relationship with BOS advertising… it really shows that they are listening to their customers and the Canadian public in general.”

“The fact is, there was no malicious intent,” said BOS in an e-mail to Marketing. “We did not mean to belittle the ‘coming out’ experience. Nor did we mean to imply that it was a bad thing. In fact, we were very careful to downplay the reactions of the family members so the father’s announcement would not be perceived as being catastrophic. It is most unfortunate that others have interpreted this commercial otherwise.”

BOS also quoted Duane Booth, a writer for Canadian-based website About: Gay Life Journal, who in a post about the Mr. Sub ads, wrote: “We need to lighten up. Sometimes in life we have to learn to laugh at ourselves and allow others to laugh along with us. By doing so, we are far more likely to break down barriers and be accepted for who we are and should be treated as–normal, regular people.”

“We would like to conclude by saying that it is most unfortunate that Mr. Sub has chosen to terminate our relationship over the complaints for an ad which they approved,” said the BOS statement.

“However, we stand behind our work. We hope that the debate and controversy that looms over this ad will bring about positive change and a greater tolerance and understanding of a person’s sexual preference.

“We seek to build bridges and not burn them as others would have you believe.”