All Articles Food Should restaurants stick to slinging hash?

Should restaurants stick to slinging hash?

3 min read


Tis the season for publicly bashing the rivals — and I’m not just talking about political campaigns.

Arby’s launched an ad campaign last week to much fanfare, largely because the concept takes the eatery’s advertising in a new direction as part of a larger turnaround effort now that it’s under new ownership. Former Burger King ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky created spots touting the fact that Arby’s has been slicing fresh meat daily for its sandwiches for more than 50 years, as QSRWeb, Bloomberg and other media outlets reported. Noted film director Larry Charles directed the commercials, and the company bought time during popular prime-time network shows, hours that are only getting pricier as the election approaches.

The spots didn’t stop there, though. As many brands do, Arby’s named names.  In a push to make themselves look good — the whole point of a commercial, after all — the company criticized rival sandwich chain Subway. The tactic’s not all that unusual anymore, but the chain hit hot water when spokesman and former New York City Police Detective Bo Dietl went on to tell viewers that Subway gets its pre-sliced meats from a Mount Pleasant, Iowa, food plant and accompanied the comment with an image of the West Liberty Foods plant.

Turns out it’s not smart to smear the meat guys in Iowa, especially when the company employs 1,900 people in the region, as TV station KCRG reported.  Soon after the first spot aired, Iowans were banding together on Facebook, vowing to boycott Arby’s until the offending part of the ad was pulled. “They do a great job,” VP Dan Waters told the station. “They shouldn’t feel bad about what they do based on that ad.”

Arby’s has since changed the ad, and marketing chief Russ Klein issued a lengthy apology to the people of Iowa, which included an explanation: “Odd as it may sound to you … our line of thinking was that we owed viewers all of the information in terms of accurately depicting the proximity of Subways’ slicing facility and any given Subway restaurant. Nonetheless, we did not intend to offend any Iowans; so I owe you a personal and professional apology accordingly,” QSRWeb reported.

Domino’s Pizza raised fewer hackles but still got plenty of buzz for new commercials touting the chain’s pan pizza offering, spots that have CEO Patrick Doyle calling out Pizza Hut in all but name for using frozen dough.

Apparently the workers wherever Pizza Hut’s dough is made didn’t take the crack personally — and, apparently, neither did Pizza Hut, as Advertising Age reported. “We are used to our competition following our lead, but consumers have proven time and time again that they will not settle for second best,” said CMO Kurt Kane.

Candidates, parties and political supporters routinely sling mud at opponents in ads, but more and more often lately it makes me wonder whether those spots are the result of candidates who don’t feel secure enough in their ability to win on the merits. Is it time to start wondering the same about restaurants that employ the same strategy?

Does bashing the other guy make for a positive strategy or is it destined to backfire? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.