Setting a new bar for brands and their programming aspirations, Subway’s scripted comedy series, "The 4 to 9ers," appears to be
performing better than anyone expected.
In fact, the series -- which follows a group of high school kids and their adventures in minimum-wage work -- is nearing 10 million views on Hulu, YouTube and other major distribution hubs. That's according to Caitlin Burke, senior marketing manager of media and branded entertainment at Subway, who spoke to attendees of the OMMA Video conference on Tuesday.
Written, directed and produced by "Two and a Half Men" director Jamie Widdoes and writer Tim O'Donnell ("Growing Pains," "Dave's World"), the show has succeeded on every level as a short-form comedy series on Hulu, according to Burke.
As such, the "4 to 9ers" -- produced in conjunction with Los Angeles-based Content & Co. -- has inspired Subway to produce additional episodes, along with a sequel, "The 4 to 9ers Reloaded.”
Regarding Subway’s content strategy, Burke said it's all about "taking calculated risks." Translation? Trying to entertain audiences and get laughs, while protecting the integrity of the Subway brand, she explained. “That has meant staying up to 3 a.m. on set to make sure [the Subway brand] is represented properly,” Burke said.
Yet the purpose of Subway’s programming strategy isn’t to facilitate product placement, Burke insisted. "We shun the word 'product placement,'" she said on Tuesday afternoon -- suggesting that the term connotes something inauthentic or inorganic. "We want to be an invited guest," Burke said of the Subway brand.
The show is only one piece of Subway’s branded entertainment efforts. The massive QSR has also worked with NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” for 11 seasons, produced the “Subway Fresh Artists Filmmakers” program, and maintains a promotional partnership with Disney.
Along with Google and Target, Subway also topped a list -- released by global consulting firm Vivaldi Partners -- of brands using social media most effectively to target consumers in March.