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

Guru Careers: Account Executive / Account Manager

£18 - 20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: An Account Executive / Account Manager is ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Social Media Account Writers

£12000 - £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This social media management pr...

Ashdown Group: Deputy Editor (Magazine Publishing) - Wimbledon - £23-26K

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Deputy Editor - Wimbledon...

Ashdown Group: Editor (Magazines/Publishing) - Wimbledon - £26-30K

£26000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Editor (Magazines/Publish...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent