With its most recent OOH advertising campaign, Postmates appeals to the urban commuter’s wry sense of humor.

When it comes to home cooking, most New Yorkers would prefer not to partake, thank you very much. Considering the tiny kitchens found in most NYC apartments, the cumbersome reality of grocery shopping without a car, and the abundance of delicious dining options in every corner of the city, it’s easy to understand why.

Our city’s collective tendency towards takeout has led to the rise of a number of at-your-service food delivery options, from established giants like Delivery.com and Seamless to startups like Caviar and Maple (RIP). And each of these companies, it seems, has devoted generous ad spend to becoming a ubiquitous name among native New Yorkers. Which leads to the all-important question: if a hip new app-based food delivery service sprouts up in the city and there is no clever, on-the-nose subway ad campaign to promote it, did it really ever exist?

San-Francisco-based food delivery startup Postmates is not keen to find out, as evidenced by its string of recent ads that can be seen across the city. In the storied lineup of subway ad campaigns, where does Postmates rank?

Going Too Far — and Bouncing Right Back

It’s a burger. It’s a popsicle. It’s a…woman being attacked by a malevolent set of headgear, the memories of which she’s spent her whole adult life trying to repress?

Sure, Postmates’ most recent ad campaign strikes a much different tone (more on that in the next section). But we would be remiss not to dwell for a moment on this 2017 campaign, which, to their credit, really goes for it. What “it” is, we may never know. Hailed as a “desperate plea for attention” by Quartz, this one is a real head-scratcher that manages to rob the universally beloved millennial snack, Avocado Toast©, of all its allure.

postmates ad campaignA New Twist on a Modern Classic

After the confusion invoked by this, let’s say, unconventional campaign, Postmates returned to a more well-worn path familiar to anyone who’s spent quality time with the MTA in recent years. With their 2018 “We Get You” campaign, which kicked off in mid-April, the startup followed in the footsteps of Spotify, Casper, and other OOH titans with its minimalist design, hyper-local approach, and copy that communicates a sometimes presumptive (but often advantageous) second-person familiarity.

This can be a tricky balance to strike — but when they get it right, they really get it right:

postmates ad campaignThis ad communicates Postmates’ insider knowledge of its local customer base without being too cloying. It creates a sense of intimacy among those who understand the in-joke, but it is not alienating: anyone, New Yorker or not, can understand the desire to indulge in one’s most carnal culinary desires in the privacy of one’s own home.

Yet, where some of the ads in this recent campaign hit the ball out of the park, others fall just short of a home run. Take this one, for example:

postmates ad campaign
I mean, personally, I support this sentiment — but in a city teeming with finance guys, it might not be the wisest move to alienate this high net worth segment of the population. Stockbrokers get hungry, too.

Meanwhile, take a look at the ad to the right in the image above. Its messaging has already caused a stir due to its ageist sentiment.

No one can be right 100% of the time, but Postmates seems to be doing its best to win the loyalty of urban customers — and is forging into new territory, one food pun at a time. “Pad see ew” on the flip side, Postmates.

postmates ad campaign

Author Hilary Krutt

A graduate of Dartmouth College, Hilary joined L&T after several years in the publishing industry at Simon & Schuster. As a member of the editorial board for the Off the Shelf book blog, her writing has been featured on the Huffington Post, among other major publications. At L&T, Hilary manages content quality and production, collaborating directly with writers, content managers, and clients to ensure every piece we write hits the mark every time. In her free time, Hilary is an avid reader and live music enthusiast. She hails from Boston but currently calls Brooklyn home.

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