Coffee table-top ad revenues promise to be more than a handful of beans

The days of the cappuccino-flavoured escape from commerce may soon be gone, reports Alex Benady

Turn on the television and an advertising slogan invariably hits you. Newspapers, magazines, radio, billboards, bus stops and even the buses themselves have become platforms for hectoring us with more sales pitches. It's time to seek respite with a nice quiet cup of coffee.

Turn on the television and an advertising slogan invariably hits you. Newspapers, magazines, radio, billboards, bus stops and even the buses themselves have become platforms for hectoring us with more sales pitches. It's time to seek respite with a nice quiet cup of coffee.

Except the cappuccino is no longer the refuge from the commercial world you'd thought it was. One enterprising British company has found a way of turning the tables we sit at in cafés, restaurants and pubs into yet another advertising medium.

The "ambient media" firm tabletalkmedia has started fitting table tops in coffee bars, food courts and hospital refectories with virtually indestructible laminate surfaces printed with glossy ads for anything from financial services to soaps.

"I was sitting having a coffee with a friend a couple of years ago when it dawned on me that the table top itself represented a huge untapped commercial opportunity," says Lloyd Keisner, the co-founder of tabletalkmedia. It must have been like finding a winning lottery ticket in the street. His company is now sub-letting table tops to advertisers for around £50 per month.

It sounds so obvious that it's surprising that it hasn't been done before. But Keisner says it cost him hundreds of thousands of pounds to develop a stick-on that would withstand constant heat, wiping, scratching, picking and the occasional cigarette burn.

His pitch is that table tops offer advertisers a wide range of advantages. First is the surprising volume of people who see them.

His company has just struck a deal with Coffee Republic to put ads on 1,200 tables in 50 or so of its shops up and down the country. "Coffee Republic alone attracts more than a million customers a month," Keisner points out. That is the equivalent to the readership of a sizeable magazine.

He has also signed deals with the catering giant Compass, which runs restaurants in hospitals and shopping centres, so his current holding is around 5,000 table tops, delivering six million "impressions" a month. And that's just scratching the surface of the millions of table tops that exist in the UK alone.

Despite being a mass medium in every sense, table tops also offer advertisers another benefit; that of targetability. "Coffee Republic happens to attract a preponderance of ABC men, but other outlets will have their own distinct geographical and demographic characters," he says.

But the real prize, and this is why table-top advertising is probably here to stay, say media experts, is that it offers advertisers the thing they crave above all else; our undivided attention. With so much information bombarding us the whole time, we have learned to tune out most advertising, turning a blind-eye to TV commercials, and careering past posters.

"Undivided attention" has been re-branded in advertising-sales-speak as "dwell time" - the period spent in front of a commercial. "For mainstream media it is usually seconds. But research shows dwell-time in cafés or pubs averages 15min. That's a great chance to get your message lodged in people's minds," says Keisner.

But isn't it also a great chance to royally irritate customers who almost by definition are using the café or bar to provide a pause, a break from the hubbub? After all, you don't have to be Naomi Klein to object to your cultural space being co-opted by commercial interests.

Not at all, says Coffee Republic. "Coffee shops are not sacred environments or havens from the outside world. People come in for all sorts of reasons. But we are obviously very concerned not to alienate our customers, and the tests we have done suggest that these ads don't bother anyone in the slightest," argues its trading director, Mike Baker. He says that the company vets both the brands that advertise and the copy they supply, so there is no danger of going in for a sarnie and being confronted with, say, a dog-food or san-pro ad.

He is completely up-front about the motivating factor for table-owners. It's just money. "We're doing this for revenue. We're a commercial operation competing in a tough environment. This will provide us with extra revenue and help us stay competitive."

Coffee Republic could make half a million pounds a year from selling ads on its 1,200 table tops. This type of advertising is likely to mushroom.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Guru Careers: Business Development Manager / Sales Executive

£20 - £30k DOE + OTE + BENEFITS: Guru Careers: A Business Development Manager ...

Guru Careers: Copywriter / Direct Response Copywriter

£20k plus sales linked bonus. : Guru Careers: We are seeking a Copywriter to j...

Guru Careers: 3D Creative Designer

Up to £26k DOE: Guru Careers: A Junior / Mid-Level 3D Creative Designer is nee...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks