Ad Space – Meet the Spongmonkeys

You are now entering Ad Space, a realm of commercials, brought before us so we might examine how they work, and discuss why we both love and hate them so. So it is written …

The Product:
Quiznos restaurants

The Promotion:

The Pitch:
Gah! Okay, okay, we’ll eat at Quiznos! Just … stop those things from looking at me!

Take a trip back in time with me, to the decade that we have chosen, for better or worse, to call “the 2000’s”.

Many things define this unique period in history: the War on Terror, the Great Recession, the rise of smartphones and social media. But today we discuss perhaps that era’s greatest legacy: ugly ass Flash-animated cartoons that are equal parts juvenile humor and dada-esque surrealism.

With computer technology making it increasingly easy to both produce and distribute animation, there was a great boom of … shall we say, offbeat cartoons. Cartoons that defied conventional joke or story structure, subverted standards of “good” voice acting or character design, and just generally challenged ideas of good taste.

Such cartoons had existed before (South Park began life as such an animated short in the 90’s), but with the now-ubiquity of the Internet, and with the Adult Swim network building its whole brand around this sort of animation, there were more of these cartoons being watched by more people than ever before.

Only in the 2000’s, in this very specific environment, could a Quiznos executive have watched Joel & Alex Veitch’s surreal, nonsensical cartoon short “We Like the Moon” and decide, “Hey, if we change the lyrics to be about sandwiches, this could make a great commercial!”

In some ways, the resulting commercial was successful. The animated creatures (referred to as “spongmonkeys” and as Quiznos’ “spokesthings”) were so completely odd in every detail, they couldn’t help but grab attention. I guarantee you, people were far more aware of Quiznos’ existence after these ads aired than they were before.

But getting attention is only half the job. You also have to make your restaurant seem like something people would enjoy, which is where they ran into trouble. These sorts of surreal cartoons may have been at their height of popularity, but they were still never mainstream. While some people enjoyed the sheer oddity of the spongmonkeys, many others found their off-key singing to be annoying beyond belief, and some found them to be so darn strange, they were actually unsettling to look at.

A handful of spongmonkey ads were released over the course of about a year, before the ad campaign was quietly dropped, to be forgotten in the mists of time … or until the 2030’s, most likely, when the nostalgia cycle will have moved on to remaking every bit 2000’s pop culture, and we’ll get the Spongmonkey Cinematic Universe.

In preparation for the glorious day, behold the original online cartoon that started it all: