The infamous “spongemonkey” Web and TV ads — which feature rodents with scary human eyeballs and even scarier human mouths lauding Quiznos subs — have provoked more than 30,000 calls and emails and quadrupled traffic on Quiznos’ site.
Responses to the ads “run the gamut, from ‘You rock!’ to ‘You’re out of your minds,'” according to Kerry Feuerman, vice chairman and creative director for the Martin Agency in Richmond, Virginia. The agency worked with Joel Veitch, the Spongemonkeys’ creator, to put together the ads.
“I’ve not had so much response to a campaign in 24 years,” Feuerman said.
Traffic on Quiznos’ site zoomed to 575,000 unique visitors when the TV ads launched in February, according to comScore Media Metrix. This is more than four times the number of unique visitors to Quiznos’ site the previous month, January, which saw 129,000 unique visitors.
Meanwhile, Veitch, the creator, has seen a surge in his career thanks to the ads’ success. He has completed a series of music video shows for Channel 4 in Britain and is now working on a commercial for a bank card, also in Britain.
“The Quiznos ads definitely were a fantastic thing for my career- there’s no doubting that. I was in a bar in New York a couple of weeks ago — first time back over since the ads went out. Those ads came up in conversation and the whole bar started screeching ‘WE LOVE THE SUBS!’ at me. I was somewhat taken aback to be honest,” Veitch said in an email message.
The responses to Quiznos are running about half in favor and half against, Feuerman said. The people who don’t like the ad define what the mysterious creatures are, with descriptions such as “road kill,” he said. “Those who like the ads are asking, “What are those creatures?”
And thereby hangs a tail… er, tale. The spongemonkeys (sometimes spelled “spongmonkeys”) first surfaced online about five or six years ago. “This kind of thing was one of the earliest viral phenomena online, not these specific characters, but this style of animation has been popular ever since people were starting to use Macromedia and Flash,” said Marc Schiller, CEO of viral marketing firm Electric Artists.
Joel Veitch became a well-known creator of the creatures without having a particular commercial purpose in mind. Via an email from a friend, one of Veitch’s creations ended up in the hands of a worker at the Martin Agency. In a stroke of what Schiller calls genius and some might call temporary insanity, the agency created an ad modeled on the Spongemonkeys and presented it to Quiznos when auditioning for the account. The rest is history, with Veitch and the Martin Agency working together to create the ads.
“It’s an established advertising practice to mine gems from popular culture and put them in ads,” said Gary Stein, analyst for Jupiter Research, owned by the parent of this publication. “This shows that the Internet is becoming part of the cultural media language.”
According to Feuerman, the target audience for the ads is young men 18 to 34, an often-elusive audience. Advertisers have been exploring unique ways to reach this and the general teenaged and twenty-something audience, which are known to be Net-savvy. Burger King’s Subservient Chicken site and a Web-only video ad for American Express featuring Jerry Seinfeld and Superman (via animation) are other examples of this approach.
“We’ve had all kinds of comments, from, ‘I don’t let my kids go near the TV any more,’ to ‘I love the song and can’t get it out of my head,’ said Feuerman. “Love ’em or hate ’em, you can’t ignore ’em.”