Star Wars: Episode VII doesn't hit theaters until December, but the parade of marketing around the movie has already begun. Quiznos today is launching a parody ad on YouTube that playfully mashes up the film franchise with another flick—the movie version of the HBO show Entourage due out in June.
And here's why the sandwich maker is debuting this particular initiative right now: On Thursday, the popular Star Wars Celebration convention kicks off in Anaheim, Calif.
"There's such a big following with the Star Wars world," Chris Ruszkowski, vp of advertising at Quiznos, told Adweek. "Both Star Wars and Entourage are coming out this year, and we are excited about what we are going to be bringing this week as well."
The brand's endeavor centers on "Startourage," a three-minute video spoof that humorously drops Entourage characters like Vincent Chase and Ari Gold into the world of Star Wars.
The ad will be pushed with an undisclosed paid budget for at least the next few weeks, while Ruszkowski believes the spot—part of an ongoing effort called Toasty.TV—could stay popular throughout 2015.
"When you make a digital spend with banner ads, it's here today, gone tomorrow," he explained. "You are hoping you have reached the right person during the right period of time. With Toasty.TV, we are creating content that is the gift that keeps on giving."
Ruszkowski is buoyed by the success his team—which includes agencies Strike Social and Windowseat—saw in 2014 with a similar concept called "House of Thrones," a mashup of Netflix's House of Cards and HBO's Game of Thrones. That effort generated more than 2 million views and continues to perform well.
Quiznos' marketers employed YouTube's TrueView ad unit, which most Web viewers know by its five-second "Skip" button. If viewers hit the button, the advertiser doesn't have to pay, creating return-on-investment results that are lucrative to media buyers. And 70 percent of House of Throne's 2 million views were free thanks to organic sharing, said Patrick McKenna, CEO of Strike Social. He said the video's positive showing was due to thoroughly testing different aspects of the mashup before deciding on a final version.
"We put all of the content on YouTube at once so we could see which ones were performing the best," said McKenna. "And then we could allocate the budget to the best-performing video in real time. I didn't want them to run out of budget before they found the best video. We gave it a little paid push, and then organic just took off."
The video was reactivated in the weeks leading up to Game of Thrones' Season 5, which premiered on April 12. "Every time we put paid media into this video, it takes off," McKenna said.
The mashup concept fits well with Quiznos' marketing heritage, said Moz Mirbaba, co-founder of Windowseat.
"They've always had a funny, quirky brand," he remarked. "We looked at how we could get into the conversations that matter for young adult males. We looked at sports, comedy and pop culture. People were talking about their favorite movies and TV shows online. So we decided to explore the idea of bringing two entertainment properties together."
Meanwhile, many more brands will jump on the Star Wars hype machine with these kinds of marketing attempts in the coming months, predicted National CineMedia president Cliff Marks.
"It's one of cinema's most iconic and beloved franchises, and the excitement level has been huge since the movie was announced among both millennials and older demographics who have been fans since the original films came out," Marks said. "In fact, after this weekend's Star Wars Celebration happens, I think there will be even more buzz after people get a first look at the movie."