The singing Quiznos rodents, explained.

Advertising deconstructed.
Feb. 23 2004 5:34 PM

The Creatures From the Sandwich Shop

Behind the singing rodents in the Quiznos ad.

Quiznos' singing rodent The spot: A small, furry creature, wearing a bowler hat, levitates as he sings an ode to Quiznos subs. Nearby, another flying creature wears an 18th century seafaring hat, and strums on an acoustic guitar. Song lyrics: "We love the subs! 'Cuz they are good to us. The Quiznos subs. They are tasty, they are crunchy, they are warm because they toast them. They got a pepper bar!"

Never have I gotten so much mail on a single ad. I gather that you seek an explanation. And with great urgency. Many of you sound disturbed—as though your lives will be placed on hold until you've come to terms with these haunting creatures.

Seth Stevenson Seth Stevenson

Seth Stevenson is a frequent contributor to Slate. He is the author of Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World.

I wish I could help. But what can be said? I mean, it's a screeching, levitating prosimian in a bowler hat. You'll find no easy answers here, people. What I can tell you is this:

Advertisement

These characters come from a man named Joel Veitch, who makes television shows for Britain's Channel 4 *  (according to his Web site, www.rathergood.com). On his site, you can see these creatures in a January 2003 video clip, in which they sing about loving the moon, marmots, cheese, dirigibles, and several other nouns. The clip, which calls the characters "spongmonkeys," seems pretty clearly the basis for the Quiznos ad. (Quiznos says a guy from their ad firm received the clip in an e-mail from a friend and decided it was perfect for a new campaign.)

According to Trey Hall, the chief marketing officer, Quiznos gets loads of mail on these ads. He says it breaks into three categories: 1) "What are these creatures?"; 2) "You gotta be kidding"; and 3) "This is genius advertising!" Since that's pretty much the breakdown in my mailbag, too, I'll take these one by one.

What are these creatures? As I say, they're called spongmonkeys. I don't know why and neither did Hall. In your mail to me, you've called them: gerbils with birth defects; Mr. Potato Rats; drug-addled, castrato hamsters; and "hell lemurs" (which, while catchy, is not really accurate, as the lemur body type is far more ectomorphic). Whatever they are, they're clearly Photoshopped, and if pressed I would say the base element is a pygmy marmoset.

You gotta be kidding. Many of you are repulsed by the spongmonkeys, can't fathom how they would make you desire a sub, and worry that these ratlike creatures suggest an unsanitary sandwich-prep environment.

Hall says that Quiznos needs to be "dramatic" with the airtime it buys, because it's got a smaller ad budget than its competitors. It's a brand that's still in a growth stage, and its main goal right now is awareness—i.e., water-cooler talk. Mission accomplished, I'd say. By the way, this is an ongoing strategy for Quiznos and has met with some detractors in the past. Last fall, Ad Report Card critiqued a Quiznos spot in which a man suckles at the teat of a she-wolf.

This is genius advertising! You know what? I totally agree! Teat-sucking was over the line, yes, but the spongmonkeys are delightful. They've got a certain winning charm—you can feel it in the way they sing "pepper baaarrrr!" And come on, the pirate hat? Kudos.

Is this ad incomprehensibly weird? Yes. Quiznos transformed a piece of outsider art into a nationwide ad campaign. And I'm all for it. I hope their next ad somehow features a 16-foot model of the Lusitania built entirely of toothpicks and wood glue.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

It’s Legal for Obama to Bomb Syria Because He Says It Is

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 23 2014 12:43 PM Occupy Wall Street How can Hillary Clinton be both a limousine liberal and a Saul Alinsky radical?
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 23 2014 2:08 PM Home Depot’s Former Head of Security Had a Legacy of Sabotage
  Life
Outward
Sept. 23 2014 1:57 PM Would A Second Sarkozy Presidency End Marriage Equality in France?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 11:13 AM Why Is This Mother in Prison for Helping Her Daughter Get an Abortion?
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 11:48 AM Punky Brewster, the Feminist Punk Icon Who Wasn’t
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 1:50 PM Oh, the Futility! Frogs Try to Catch Worms Off of an iPhone Video.
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 23 2014 1:38 PM Why Is Fall Red in America but Yellow in Europe? A possible explanation, 35 million years in the making.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.