Why Postmates Agreed to Retract Its Tasteless Ad About Age, and Death

Company received complaints about 'ageist' faux pas

New Yorkers were not impressed by Postmates' cheeky ads. Postmates
Headshot of Alissa Fleck

Brands will try just about anything to catch people’s attention these days amid all the noise out there, but sometimes they really miss the mark. Critics are saying Postmates may have gone a little too far this time—even by New Yorkers’ standards.

The company has recently tried to carve out a share of the food-delivery market in NYC, but it’s up against some stiff competition from Seamless, which New Yorkers have grown attached to over the years.

Lizz Niemeyer, director of brand marketing at Postmates, told Adweek in April that after a successful ad campaign in Los Angeles, the company tried to bring its “We Get It” campaign to New York, which has a more crowded delivery market. 

As a part of the minimalist out-of-home campaign, which aims to show New Yorkers that Postmates “gets” them, Postmates released an ad that read: “When you want a whole cake to yourself because you’re turning 30, which is basically 50, which is basically dead. Dessert. We get it.” 

“It’s a common theme we see on social media—people love that on Postmates, you can order whole cakes and pints of ice cream with no judgment whatsoever,” a company spokesperson said. “Often our customers are doing so as a celebration on their birthdays. We’ve seen several playful jokes on social media about how ordering cake on Postmates makes birthdays better at any age. This was the inspiration for this particular billboard.”

The ad certainly caught people’s eye but with unintended consequences. Unfortunately, some more opinionated New Yorkers don’t want any postmortem humor with their Postmates delivery, and the ad came off as tone-deaf rather than sympathetic.

The company took to Twitter to express its regrets and promise to take down the offending ad after it claimed it received a number of complaints about what was perceived by many as ageist humor.

“We only saw a few posts about this on Twitter and Instagram, but we would never want anyone to take our ads in any way other than the humor we were intending, so we responded and took the handful of these specific subway lines down,” the spokesperson said. 

As far as how this will affect the company’s marketing strategy going forward, “It doesn’t,” the spokesperson told Adweek. “We will always put out marketing that we think is funny and that our target audience would enjoy, but we will also always continue to be responsive to feedback from our customers if they feel like we missed the mark.” 

@AlissaFleck Alissa Fleck is a New York City-based reporter, podcast producer and contributor to Adweek.