Fivefinger & Co. and Gitter's Gallery have supplied hundreds of restaurants with postcards-many featuring advertisements-as free gifts to give their customers.
Advertisers pay the New York-based companies to print and distribute their postcards, mainly to restaurants, and Fivefinger and Gitter's supply card racks.
The idea for Fivefinger's Gratis Postcards, which began operations in June, originated in Copenhagen, Denmark, about five years ago. Since then, it has spread to every major European city, said Alan Wolan, president.
"What makes postcards so special is that the person you're advertising to gets something of value for free," Mr. Wolan said. "People are excited ... We're destroying the postcard industry in New York."
Fivefinger's racks are in 121 city restaurants and include cards from Hennessy Martini, Club Med and local cultural institutions.
Patrick Morley-Fletcher, Hennessy Martini advertising manager, said it is an interesting way to get the company's message out. "We're perfectly positioned right at the point of purchase."
Mr. Wolan said one main Fivefinger's goal is to support the arts. Traditional advertisers are charged $1,200 for a minimum distribution of 20,000 postcards during a two-week period; cultural advertisers are charged $800.
Scott Searfoss, maitre d' at Vince & Eddies, said the postcards on the Fivefinger rack are being received well by guests, especially those who come in for pre-theater dinners. "It's a giveaway people like to take with them."
Gitter's began providing racks to restaurants and health clubs in June.
"We've had an incredible response," said Sylvie Anapole, principal at Gitter's. "We're in a lot of really wonderful locations."
Gitter's racks, with postcards from advertisers including Thom McAn shoes, Donna Karan clothes, Joop! jeans and Godiva chocolates, are in 67 city locations. And Gitter's expands to Los Angeles in September.
"We love it for our customers," said Jaye Lee, manager-technical director of New York restaurant Eighty-Eight's.
Advertisers pay Gitter's $1,500 per city a month for a 15,000-card distribution. Gitter's also dedicates one slot in each rack for a charitable card, which is printed and distributed at no charge.