Bag Media Takes Advertiser to Lunch

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Britain's Bag Media PLC is converting the humble sandwich bag into an advertising medium that's expected to drive city-center and financial district consumer traffic to Web sites.


Starting with recruiting site HotJobs.com as its debut advertiser, Bag Media will distribute an estimated 1 million carryout paper bags for a month's time in 1,000 delis and bagel and takeout stores in New York's Manhattan borough. Consumers carry these bags to their desks where they are most likely to surf the Web during breaks or lunchtime.


"The media sits typically for 11.2 minutes on a desk during break time, so it's an opportunity to drive hits to your Web site," said David Landsberg, CEO of Bag Media in Highgate, a suburb of London. "Estimates are that approximately 70 percent of Internet surfing at work takes place during lunch time."


Measuring 9.5-by-5.5-by-3 inches, the HotJobs ad runs on one side of the paper bag, and reads, "Better jobs for a better lunch. HotJobs.com: better jobs for a better life." Ads will run on both sides, except for the debut HotJobs campaign, which will feature Bag Media's toll-free number and Web site address on the other side.


Bag Media produces the bag, prints the advertiser's message and distributes it to outlets with which it has signed exclusive contracts. Outlets get the bags for free as a cost-saving incentive.


"We saturate each city center and we supply the listings of all the outlets to clients," Landsberg said. "We obviously regularly put together the exact volumes that are required per month for each outlet or venue. So, we're in constant touch with the outlets to use the bags."


For its efforts, Bag Media will charge advertisers $33,000 for a month-long 600,000-bag campaign.


"It's comparable with any outdoor campaign," Landsberg said. "In the UK we divert significant amount of campaigns from radio and billboard. But, of course, we complement them as well. The brands in the UK use us to support TV and outdoor."


Bag Media launched three and a half years ago as a media company focused on emblazoning marketing messages on packaging and shopping bags of varying sizes. The popular sandwich bag product, called model No. 6, was introduced a year ago.


Customers of Bag Media in Britain include Microsoft Corp., Financial Times for its newspaper and online versions, Internet currency beenz, lastminute.com, SmithKline Beecham, Reckitt & Colman, and Knoll.


"In the UK we're already producing 20 [million] to 25 million bags a month," Landsberg said.


The company now is eyeing an expansion into 12 to 15 U.S. markets, including Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, Miami, Minneapolis, Denver and Austin, TX.


"Obviously these markets are important to us," said Rob Lowenthal, North America sales director at Bag Media Inc., Port Chester, NY, the local subsidiary. "Depending on the advertisers, we'll open in these markets. Within seven months of launching in London, we were offering national campaigns."


Executives at Bag Media are busy closing contracts with advertisers for the holiday season.


"[In the U.S.] we've already got bookings for next month from a company called easyEverything," Landsberg said. "They're going to be launching in the U.S. in the middle of November. They're going to launch with shopping bags and an outdoor campaign, I think."


Owned by London's easyGroup, easyEverything Ltd. is a chain of Internet cafes in the Netherlands, Britain, Spain and Germany. The company next month will open its first store outside Europe near New York's Times Square. Boasting 800 computers, the store will charge $1 per hour for Internet access, with rates escalating at peak times.


Bag Media's expansion to the United States reflects a similar British propensity for the takeout food culture in an era where consumers are strained for time. Still, the cultural differences between American and British food consumption habits are glaring, the company found.


"In the UK, 90 percent of our [bag] media is used at lunch time," Landsberg said. "Conversely, 80 percent of the U.S. work force grabs a bagel and coffee on the way to work."
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