Quiznos is bringing back Spongmonkeys for some reason

The sandwich chain, declaring that “it’s a new day,” is looking to generate attention for the brand with a new digital campaign featuring one of the weirdest characters in marketing history.
Spongmonkeys Quiznos
Quiznos is bringing back Spongmonkeys for a digital campaign. | Photo: YouTube

Nobody asked for it, but Quiznos is bringing back Spongmonkeys.

The sandwich chain, which has closed 95% of its U.S. locations over the past 15 years, is hoping to generate attention and jump aboard the nostalgia bandwagon by bringing back the oddly shaped rat-like figures in a digital ad campaign.

The first ad acknowledges the chain’s problems. “It’s harder to find a Quiznos these days and we’re here to fix that,” the ad says. “Because it’s a new day. And we’re bringing Quiznos back.”

Spongmonkeys last appeared on television ads for Quiznos back in 2005, when the chain operated more than 4,000 restaurants, was among the country’s largest restaurants and was on the verge of attracting a $600 million investment from a group of private equity firms in a leveraged buyout.

The character is some type of rodent with human teeth and misshaped eyes and a screechy singing voice, paired with an apparently silent partner on the acoustic guitar. The character was derided as one of the “10 creepiest product mascots” by Time, is featured in the book “Great Brand Blunders,” and has been called “the weirdest corporate mascot of all time.”

But the ad did, in fact, grab attention, and that is apparently what Quiznos is doing here.

Quiznos acknowledges the divisiveness of the Spongmonkeys character, noting in its press release that “the creatures are still loved by many while some find them just as cringeworthy as ever.”

The ad was designed by Tank Design and Joel Veitch, who is the voice of the Spongmonkeys and designed the original character. The character lived on the internet and was picked by Quiznos for ads in 2004. “I am super excited to wake our beloved Spongmonkeys from hibernation and release them back into the world,” Veitch said in a statement.

This time, Quiznos is vowing that it is entering a “new growth era.” The ads promise a road trip featuring Spongmonkeys traveling to locations that are still home to one of the chain’s sandwich shops.

The brand was acquired by High Bluff Capital Partners in 2018. It has lost more than half of its U.S. system sales in the years since then and now operates 165 locations in the U.S., according to data from Restaurant Business sister company Technomic. System sales declined 12.7% last year. The brand does operate 265 international locations, but that number declined 5% last year.

In its release, the company touted that it has signed agreements for nearly 100 locations with multi-unit operators. It also touted a “Quiznos 2.0” operating model featuring new cooking equipment and an expanded menu.

Yet earlier this year, Quiznos closed several restaurants in Denver and New Mexico—including the first location in the brand’s history—after a franchisee who signed one big multi-unit deal collapsed under the weight of the cost of one such prototype.

(For more details on that particular story, check out “The Tragedy of Dominik Mendoza.”)

Quiznos’ decline is the biggest in restaurant industry history. The company’s unit count began shrinking in 2007 amid its own high food costs, thanks to the brand’s internal supply chain, and competition from Subway, which had added toasters to its restaurants.

But the Spongmonkeys campaign is considered a contributor, in part because it moved away from the company’s funny ads highlighting its quality and toward a character few people understood.

Yet its return comes amid a nostalgia trend in restaurant advertising. McDonald’s has had success using Grimace in its marketing, especially this summer. Burger King, meanwhile, updated its 70s-era look and marketing.

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