Quiznos Cops An Attitude, Disses Martin.

Adweek reports that Denver-based sandwich maker, Quiznos, is removing its account from The Martin Agency in Richmond, Virginia.
The account has not been placed into review yet, said Trey Hall, chief marketing officer for Quiznos. Discussions about future advertising failed to result in an agreement between the client and the agency, Hall said. “As we look into 2005, we weren’t quite connecting.”
Allow me to translate. Quiznos failed to see the wisdom in Martin’s thinking. So now they’re looking for someone willing to take direction. An agency like Martin, or Fallon, or Wieden can’t take direction from a client if the direction is bad. Bad account direction leads to even worse work, and for an agency whose entire reputation is built on the work, it’s far better to cut the wayward client loose than to do what they ask.
On another front, the Quiznos account reminds me how difficult it is for the Denver ad market to rise above total obscurity. Quiznos was once at Denver boutique, Morey Mahoney, but as the QSR grew so did their britches. For Denver to make a real name for itself in the ad market, the best shops–Morey, TDA, Karsh + Hagan and McClain Finlon–need to somehow keep these hot or “toasty” accounts at home.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Carl LaFong says:

    Another incisive, insightful analysis, Mr. Blum (editor’s note: the name is Burn, like a fire). But I question whether there was any “wisdom in Martin’s thinking.” I doubt those hideous Spongmonkey Squarepants commercials were the result of “bad account planning.” Rather, I think the creatives there just wanted to do something “cool” and “edgy” – regardless of whether it acutally conected with consumers or not.
    On a side note, whatever happened to The Martin Agency anyway? They used to be among the top four or five creative agencies in the country. Don’t get me wrong: Their worst work is a bazillion times better than the best stuff I’ll ever do. But it does seem like they’ve dropped off the radar creative-wise. Same with Clif Freeman. Any theories as to why? Or am I just completel off base as usual?

  2. Regarding the work at the Martin agency: It is not what it used to be because the people that did it (like Harry Jacobs, CD, and Jerry Torchia and Bob Shira and others have mostly all retired or died.
    And, for what it’s worth, the Martin Agency, even in their great years, had “closet” accounts, accounts they made money on and did bad work for. Directed by the client. Money talks, even in Richmond.
    Martin also built much of its reputation by doing “fake ads” for “fake clients”, then getting some local dry cleaners or flower shop or some other business to pay a stipend to run them. Or allow them to run with their name on it, and the agency paid for it. This gained Martin undue recognition for unreal work. And was done under Harry Jacob’s regime, and at his direction.
    Sorry to bust your balloon.

  3. No apologies necessary, Clyde. Martin is still a thousand times better than just about everyone else. I don’t care who retired or died. Agencies like Martin simply reload, like great college football programs. To roll with this analogy, Penn State, Nebraska, Notre Dame and Alabama have all fallen from grace recently. But they will be back on top before long, as will Martin (not that they’ve slipped much in my estimation).
    Now, on to spec work and its place in the world. I once worked for an agency obsessed with spec work. And the defenders of this practice would site such things as “Fallon did it.” To which I would reply, “I think you better get out your history books.” In general, spec doesn’t take you far today. Award show judges can sniff it out from a mile away and almost always pass on it, knowing as they do that the real work of a creative shop is SELLING the work in, not creating it. Almost all shops have at least one team capable of creating great work. The number of shops prepared to sell it, I can count on my fingers and maybe a couple of toes.

  4. Carl LaFong says:

    There is much truth to what you say, Clyde. Martin has certainly done their share of “fake ads” for tattoo parlors and pet shops. And I’m sure they have a number of “closet accounts” whose very existence they’d prefer to deny, not unlike the proverbial crazy aunt in the attic.
    But they have done some outstanding work for “real” clients in the past, such as TV Land, the JFK Library and. . . uh. . . well, I know there are some others, the names of which escape me. Like, say, that line of children’s clothes from a decade or so ago.
    Which, of course, is the point. Most of their great work – legit or not – was done years ago. Outside of the occasional ad for the JFK Library, their work never seems to surface in the award annuals or creative-oriented publications like “Creativity” and “CA.” (Not that they are the ultimate arbiters of creative excellence.)
    Also, I’d like to apologize for the embarassing amount of typos in my original post. I even got the name of our congenial host wrong. My bad.

  5. Healhtex. Very nice work. But real or fake, all of the best stuff Martin ever did was mostly well-crafted, tasteful, elegant print work–to the point of almost being dull. Which is why time seems to have passed them by.
    So When this Quizno’s ad came out, it didn’t shock me that the creatives who presented it got the idea from rathergood.com. Martin doesn’t do this kind of “edgy” and “cool” work. It’s just not their style. No one there would have ever come up with it on their own, and if they did I doubt it would’ve made it to presentation stage,
    And to Carl, who asked about Cliff Freeman–they had the Quizno’s account right before Martin did, interestingly enough.
    By the way, the subs at Quizno’s are really good. I had one last week.

  6. What? Advertising people ripping ideas from a web site? Maybe this business really is going to hell in a handbasket.

  7. Martin’s work may be better than most today, but it is a shadow of its former self. And that says something about the state of the business today.
    When pretty good stuff is considered great. The reason Martin’s early work was great(the real work, not the fake work)was that the people that did it were great thinkers and art directors and writers and account people. Times change, people leave, move or die, and the result is what you see today.

  8. Switching gears, David touched on something near and dear to this Denver copywriter’s heart. How can the Mile High City do Mile High Advertising?
    I’ve watched accounts like Pentax, Red Robin, and Frontier Airlines flee the scene.
    I’ve watched agencies collapse and the rise of countless boutiques over the past twenty-four months, none of which show the confidence nor the capacity to handle a $40 sub shop account. And yet, I can count a baker’s dozen of agencies in Denver with the creative firepower to make noise. Serious noise.
    I hope when Quizno’s review list comes out, they stop looking at other “super-creative” agencies with one or two jackpot clients. Crispin does outstanding work for Virgin Atlantic and Mini. Does anyone know their work for AvMed? Does anyone know Wieden’s roster beyond Nike and ESPN?
    Just thoughts.

  9. Thanks for bringing it back to D-town, Jay.
    Denver is an epicenter for certain industries. Tech, communications and mutual funds come to mind. Why not advertising? I don’t know the answer to that. I do know that Minneapolis pulled it off. Denver has the infrastructure, like Minne–that is a base of client companies that call the city home. For sure, it starts there. Now, Denver ad folk need to do some serious persuading.
    Maybe a self-promo campaign that touches on the notion that one needn’t fly to a coastal megaopolis to meet with an agency. Be home for your kid’s game and dinner kind of thing.

  10. We have the same discussions over here in KC, which seems to be a similar size market to Denver, and which, like Denver, seats a number of big companies (Applebee’s, Sprint, Hallmark). The question is always, if unexpected medium sized cities like Minneapolis, Miami, Portland, and Richmond, are now considered advertising towns, why can’t Kansas City or Denver (a city which I hold dear to my heart, by the way)? Is it one agency that busts out of the advertising landscape and makes a name for the city? Is Denver just waiting for its Fallon, Crispin, Wieden, or Martin?
    Great discussion. Would love to see more people asking some of the questions in this thread.

  11. Thanks Bruno. I imagine there are several more cities in the KC/Denver funk. Yet, KC is much more of a major market for advertising than Denver. Even Salt Lake City is a bigger market for advertising.
    KC has three shops capable of big account scores. Valentine Radford, Bernstein Rein and Barkley Evergreen. Denver does not have anything close to that kind of firepower. The Integer Group is the biggest game in town, and they’re not even considered to be in the game due to their marketing services pedigree. Sorry, Jay. Next biggest is J. Walter Thompson which has one account–all the regional Ford dealers west of the Mississippi River. The shops I mention in the post all bill well under $100 mil annually.

  12. Kansas City and Denver are geographically disadvantaged compared to Minneapolis which can feed off Milwaukee and Chicago while San Fran can drive up and down the coast to find juicy accounts.
    I don’t believe, however, that you need a nine-digit account to get on the radar. Look at Mini. Crispin made it the most noteworthy car on the fraction of the budget of other cars.
    They weren’t spending left and right. They got smarter left and right.
    Perhaps Denver can learn a lot from a history lesson from Fallon. They started with micro-ads for churches and bass shops. Soon, they picked up work for Jim Beam and Ralston Purina. I don’t even have to tell you all the blue-chippers they have on their roster.
    All Denver needs is consistency. Everyone pingpongs people and accounts and direction goes array. My money here in Mile High is TDA and Sukle. Those two agencies are poised to go big time. If they want that.

  13. Jay, keep the faith brother. But tell me, what is Big Time? To me, big time is a lot more than an appearance in the award annuals. The only people who give a shit about awards are creatives working, or hoping to work, for “creative” shops.
    TDA and Sukle do outstanding work. No arguement there. But they are shops with less than 10 people. Therefore, they’re brilliant thinking will only reach so far. Sure, TDA does work for the New Jersey Nets, but that’s an account Schoenberg brought with him. It’s not like they said, damn let’s go to Boulder for some out-of-the-box thinking.

  14. Carl LaFong says:

    Fascinating discussion. I can definitely related because I, too, am in one of those nebulous markets poised in that murky region between opportunity and obscurity: Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina.
    Actually, the area is home to one large, nationally known agency: McKinney Silver. But, like The Martin Agency, the agency has seen better days. They do some nifty work every now and then for Audi and a handful of other clients, but their rep has lost some of its luster from the 80’s and early 90’s.
    I’d also like to put something Jay said in his excellent post in a slightly different light. He mentioned how Crispin was able to make Mini “the most noteworthy car on the fraction of the budget of other cars.” That’s true, but don’t forget: They still had a budget of around $30 – $40 million. That may pale in comparison to what the Big Three spend, but it’s more than three times as much as the total billings of the agency I work at. I always have to laugh when agencies moan about having to make do with “only” $30 million.

  15. One more observation. Many of the cities that are notorius for noteworthy campaigns have a historic agency or an agency that spawned many strong agenices. Many great agencies in Minneapolis good noticed right after Fallon did. Hal RIney spawned Goodby spawned Butler Shine, GSH, Venables, and so forth.
    Could Crispin make Miami a strong city? la Comunidad is doing nice work, but multiple agencies are needed to make a community a draw pull. It’s nothing Crispin needs or wants. It’s just something to sit back and see if it happens.

  16. For what it’s worth, Fallon got its name in the headlines and awards show regularly in their early years by also doing “fake” ads and entering them in contests. These ads would be “created”, then a “client” would be found that would let them put their name on it, and the agency would foot the bill in the cheapest, local newspaper available one time. Worked for them, worked for Martin, and has worked for others. Tried and true award-winning non-client advertising.