As Brits, many of us, including myself, will be unfamiliar with the iconic Sonic ads. For decades now in the US, quick serve restaurant Sonic’s marketing has revolved around people sitting in cars talking about food, whether it was the beloved “two guys” playing off each other for comedy or everyday folks shooting the breeze between bites.
The tone was loose, and the conversation was largely improvised, using a show-don’t-tell approach that put the drive-in chain’s attributes on full display. The most recent incarnation of the campaign, under the tagline “This is how we Sonic,” became a recognizable trademark and a relatable touchstone, especially during the pandemic’s socially distanced days.
However, despite decades of improvisational tones, the brand is moving on from the well-known formula, ditching the documentary-style ads for music-driven scripted spots. While it may take some getting used to, executives are convinced that a more scripted style could “dimensionalize” the brand,” according to CMO Lori Abou Habib.
With a sense of humour still intact, the restaurant will home in on its menu, aiming to show how it can satisfy cravings and transport consumers to a happy place.
“We wanted to start expanding our stories, so we’ve shifted our emphasis,” Habib told Adweek. “We’re focusing on food because the product itself has a bit of a personality.”
Instead of having the Sonic story told through the eyes of other people, the brand is taking the reins.
“This is a new era for Sonic, one where we can unabashedly claim who we are and take credit for our innovative menu offerings and the Sonic experience that you can’t find anywhere else,” Habib said.
Two new spots mark the new technique and are brought to use by agency Mother LA. One stars an anxious mom teaching her son to drive—it’s a bumpy ride—and the other features a dad grinding through his son’s football game—the kid never leaves the bench.
The lively songs highlight how each parent is daydreaming of a Sonic treat, which doubles as a sweet escape from their current situations. The music, including a banjo-heavy jingle and lyrics that wish Driver’s Ed Mom “good luck with your rising insurance premiums,” is a crucial component, Habib said.
“It would’ve seemed lacklustre to use a spoken voice-over,” Habib said. “The music’s working pretty hard here, delivering humour and energy, so it feels like a supporting cast member.”
Mother is already working on the next spots and the brand intends to keep the platform “indefinitely.” And while she would “never say never” to a return of The Two Guys—comedians Peter Grosz and T.J. Jagodowski—there’s no plan to include them in the current campaign.