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Empty Space Pays Off

Paul Partyka |

Some believe that timing is everything. For David Kessler, founder of Laundromedia, timing played a key role in the development of Laundromedia, a company that has pioneered a new form of out-of-home advertising — utilizing the machines in self-service laundries.“I started Laundromedia in the spring of 2007 after mistiming a visit to retrieve a load of laundry in the laundry room in my building,” Kessler recalls. “I had to wait a few minutes for the washer to stop, and while I waited, I was struck by all the blank space on the machines; and it occurred to me — ‘Whoa, these could have ads on them!’“I then literally ran to the Laundromat down the block from me and saw people just sitting around a laundry who had nothing to look at on the machines or walls.”At that point, with 16 years of advertising and marketing experience, Kessler believed that he could generate interest in an out-of-home space that, for the most part, had been completely ignored.“Within a few months, CBS was our first client. McDonald’s was our second.”FINE-TUNING A CONCEPTSome skeptics may be wondering: If this business concept makes so much sense, how come no one else thought of it before?It was too difficult for ad agencies to contact and deal with thousands and thousands of individual Laundromat owners, he says. “Agencies just want to deal with one person or company; it would be too time-consuming otherwise.”Kessler and his staff spend time pitching ad and media agencies about Laundromat space, researching demographics, creating proposals, mocking up how ads will look in the Laundromat, etc.“Once an advertiser is interested in or has approved a Laundromat promotion, we have been contacting owners and making an offer.” That offer includes the number of banners or machine wraps to be used, the length of the ad campaign, and the owner’s payment.Contacting owners is a challenge. To deal with this, he plans to create a network of contracted Laundromat owners who will pre-approve advertising in their stores. When this happens, Laundromedia can simply go into the stores, do the installation and pay the owners a fixed price based on the size of the ad(s).“That’s how the health-club ads and framed ads in the bathrooms work — the terms and placement of the ads have all been worked out beforehand, and the owners of those places just get a check in the mail.“Our clients have been requiring contracts between us and the Laundromat. The agencies don’t like surprises (an owner changing his mind at the last minute or discovering there is already an ad for a competing product in the laundry at the same time.)”NUTS AND BOLTSWhether an owner will want this type of advertising in his/her store will probably depend on several factors, compensation being one of them. The amount of money offered a laundry owner varies, depending on the client’s budget, how many ads are used, and the length of the campaign.”“We just paid $1,600 for a three-month campaign to a Baltimore owner who had two stores. We offered a small chain this summer $6,000 for a multimonth, multistore campaign.”Laundromedia has just installed McDonald’s displays in 82 Laundromats in Milwaukee; Oklahoma City; and Tucson, Ariz.“As of May 2010, we will have paid out a collective $40,515 to the Laundromats that have participated in our programs.”The agency interests vary, Kessler says. “We get a lot of requests for the major markets (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, etc.) and markets with a high Hispanic population. But we also get requests for smaller cities, and sometimes a whole state. Companies, like fast-food companies, often want to test something new in a small town to see how it plays.”If you’re still unsure about this marketing opportunity, keep in mind that it’s passive revenue — it doesn’t cost you anything in time, effort or money — and that the ads are for completely “normal” things, Kessler adds.              

About the author

Paul Partyka

American Coin-Op

Paul Partyka was editor of American Coin-Op from 1997 through May 2011.

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