- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 17, 2006

The average person sees thousands of ads each day. Now, a national company wants to put advertising right under your meal.

Creatable Media Inc. of Los Angeles plans to announce today that it has exclusive deals with four shopping center developers to put its clients’ ads on food-court tables. Four of these shopping centers are in the Washington area.

Tabletop advertisements compete with a range of other marketing messages, from the side of a city bus to a 60-second TV commercial. Creatable advertisements attempt to resonate with diners during the average 30-minute stay in a food court.

Creatable has reached deals with Simon Property Group Inc., Macerich Co., General Growth Properties Inc. and Westfield Group, four of the largest mall developers. Locally, Creatable has tables in St. Charles Towne Center and Westfield shopping centers in Bethesda, Annapolis and Wheaton.

“It’s just one of those things that after the fact, you think, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’” said Creatable President Vince Pierse.

The advertising panel can hold a sheet of paper, a cell phone or a T-shirt, Mr. Pierse said. Creatable provides clear food trays to ensure the ads are visible.

Clients range from local diamond companies to the Walt Disney Co., which will be advertising its “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” video later this year.

The company estimates that 35 percent of mall shoppers visit a food court and 60 percent to 70 percent of people remember the product advertised upon leaving the shopping center.

Peter Corbett, marketing services manager at Blattner Brunner Inc., a Pittsburgh advertising agency with D.C. offices, says the tabletop ads represent an extension of the paper coverings on fast-food restaurant trays.

“But in 2006 at least and beyond, we see so much advertising, what is important is engagement with the consumer,” Mr. Corbett said. “I don’t know how interactive it can be with a static placement there.”

The effectiveness of the ads depends on the client, he said. “If it’s a tabletop ad for Starbucks or McDonald’s, it may make sense entirely, though they might have already made the purchase,” he said. “If you’re targeting stores in the mall … it could work well.”

“You have a captive audience,” said Petra Arbutina, an executive vice president at Blattner’s Pittsburgh office. “If you’re going to eat at the mall, that’s the place you’re going to be.”

Other providers of tabletop advertising include Ross Marketing Group in Longwood, Fla., which claims to be the largest, and Table Top Promotions International Inc. in Rockford, Ill.

Mr. Pierse said Creatable would succeed with five- or 10-year contracts with shopping centers. For $15,000, the advertiser has exclusive rights to a certain mall for four weeks, meaning its ad would be the only one on that center’s tables.

The company, founded in late 2004, operates in 63 shopping centers nationwide and plans to add 10 by the end of the year. By the end of next year, it plans to operate in 200 shopping centers.

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