Soaking up the Spotlight: OOH’s Quirkiest New Format
by Benny Taubman, OOH TODAY Reporter
After millennia of evolution, OOH advertising has finally arrived at its final frontier: napkin advertising. Although this statement might not be entirely truthful (I am kidding of course), the advertising format is a clever, subtle, and unique innovation of the OOH medium that is cost-effective and undeniably charming.
Founded in 2020, NapkinAds is leading the charge in the napkin advertising genre. The company came to be when its founders were captivated by the QR code menu protocols that many restaurants utilized during the pandemic. Inspired by this format, they created napkins that had both a brand’s advertisement and a scannable “call-to-action” QR code beneath. In the span of its over two-year history, NapkinAds’ napkin faces have been adopted by over 100,000 restaurants in the United States and the company distributes ads on over 100 million napkins a month.
“This is a VERY captive audience,” said Dick Gillespie, Senior Vice President of Business Development at NapkinAds. “The average time a party of two at a restaurant or bar is exposed to a napkin is 45 minutes or greater, so the chances of them engaging with our NapkinAds are super high.”
On average, from the company’s own estimates, 93% of customers who encounter their branded napkins, read them. However, people just reading the napkin ad is just one part of the mission. While a party is eagerly waiting for their meal to arrive, NapkinAds is betting that the hungry restaurant or bargoer who engages with the ad will become curious enough to scan the intriguing barcode on their humble napkin.
From data the company has collected, they estimate that around 3% of people who read the napkin ad will scan the napkin’s QR code. In comparison, the average click-through rate (CTR) – the percentage of people who click on an online ad – for Google Ads is also 3%, as per SmartInsights data. Additionally, NapkinAds reports that 5.7% of customers show its branded napkins on social media platforms, further increasing reach, brand awareness, and social media engagement.
Gillespie answered some questions and chimed in on several facets of his business in an exclusive OOH Today interview.
Q: How does NapkinAds partner with restaurants and other establishments to distribute its napkins?
A: “We work exclusively with restaurants and bars directly & through food distributors. By offering free napkins to venues, it helps cut their costs. Our messaging is funny, witty, and keeps customers engaged while they wait for their food and beverages to arrive, so many business owners are receptive to holding NapkinAds in their venues!”
Q: Where are the napkins produced and who produces them?
A: “The napkins are manufactured and distributed in the United States. We work with a few of the largest paper napkin manufacturers and will typically produce 2 PLY or 3 PLY napkins, depending on the advertiser’s needs.”
Q: How many different varieties of napkins can advertisers choose from?
A: “We currently offer 3 formats; cocktail napkins, lunch napkins, and dispenser napkins.”
Q: Can advertisers choose specific establishments to have their napkins in?
A: “Clients can certainly target specific venue types (i.e Asian, Pizzerias, etc). What we offer all our clients is the ability to hyper-target their audience using demo profiles including but not limited to age, race, ethnicity, gender, income, marital status, employment, and occupation. We then place the target demo profiles into our tools and discover which areas geographically (zip codes, cities, states, DMA regions, etc.) have the highest density population of the client’s target audience. Once they are located, we then place the client’s NapkinAds in the venues located in those areas. Lots of clients have seen successful flighted campaigns with us hyper-targeting their audience.”
Q: What are some future goals for the business?
A: “Some of our future goals include having our Napkins in most venues across the country, expanding to countries we aren’t currently serving NapkinAds in, and partnering with new clients who see the value in the future of OOH advertising. One day, we hope NapkinAds will become the norm for OOH advertising – where creativity meets efficiency and where every advertising dollar is measured.”