OpenFortune Cuts Through Digital Clutter with a Physical Media Format

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The biggest action in brand marketing is happening online in 2023, but as digital channels proliferate, one agency is moving in the opposite direction. OpenFortune, a New York-based agency, is leveraging ​​fortune cookies to bring branded content to restaurant customers across the U.S. 

Global brands like Bloomingdale’s, Capital One Financial, Disney, and ADT have all signed up to publish pithy ads inside the fortune cookies passed out at more than 50,000 Asian restaurants and delivery bags.

“OpenFortune is a media platform that connects brands to consumers at scale — via fortune cookies,” explains co-founder Matt Williams. “We took all the traditional fortune cookies that we all know and love and gave brands the chance to improve the overall fortune cookie experience.”

Although OpenFortune primarily sells a physical media format, Williams says a “massive” amount of the company’s engagement happens digitally. Roughly one-fifth of people keep the slips from OpenFortune cookies, and 6% post their slips on social media. 

Advertising on fortune cookie slips gives brand advertisers a way to reach local consumers on a national scale, with the ability to target by demographic factors, zip codes, city, or state. OpenFortune works with some clients that have a presence in all 50 states, while others—for example, entertainment organizations—prefer to target major cities exclusively.

Williams says the idea for OpenFortune came after a fateful lunch, when co-founder Shawn Porat noticed that most of the fortune cookies he was reading contained recycled messages, and that those messages were decades old. Porat pitched Williams the idea, and the two set off to refresh the fortune cookie. OpenFortune officially launched in 2018.

“Practically everyone opens and reads their fortune cookie anyway,” Williams says. “[We thought], why not leverage that extra space on the slips for new and engaging content and to get a brand’s message across?”

Today, OpenFortune’s cookies are consumed by more than 135 million people each month. 

Offline Innovation

Williams believes offline advertising is poised for a comeback, in part because the digital market has become such a crowded space.

“Brands will continue to spend on digital — it’s table stakes at this point,” Williams says. “However, that fact also creates a cluttered digital advertising environment, making it evermore challenging for brands to reach consumers in a differentiated way.”

With the resurrection of the QR code, Williams says OpenFortune is blurring the lines between what is physical and digital media. In addition to logos and catchy messaging, brands are using the space on physical fortune cookie slips for QR codes that consumers can scan to learn more and quickly share content with their friends.

“Nearly everyone who receives a fortune cookie opens it, interacts with it, and shares it — whether that’s on social, via text, or with a friend at the dinner table,” Williams says.

From an engagement standpoint, Williams says the company’s “user base”—that is, consumers dining at Asian restaurants—rivals some of the largest social media platforms.

“All brands, regardless of the category, want to associate themselves with positivity. So the companies we work with span across all categories — credit cards, CPG, soft drinks, sports betting,” Williams says. “Since purchase decisions are made in the future, OpenFortune allows all types of brands to reach consumers at a very unique and impactful moment in time.”

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.