When you break open a fortune cookie, you pretty much expect to find a piece of paper printed with a generic truth that you'll still lowkey take personally on one side, and either a Chinese vocabulary word or a set of lucky numbers printed on the other. It's hard to believe that anyone wants to unfold a fortune and find some nonsense #hashtagged advertisement for a credit card company, but here we are.
Apparently ads are being shoved inside fortune cookies now, because god forbid we're allowed to enjoy two bites of sugary goodness without getting capitalism all over our tongues, too. In the past few months, posts about finding Capital One and Zelle-branded fortunes have appeared on the r/assholedesign, r/aboringdystopia, and r/mildlyinfuriating subreddits, and earlier this week, The New York Post called the practice "obnoxious advertising." That's not exactly a hot take, but it's hard to argue with.
A New York City company called OpenFortune is responsible for this new use of the cookie platform, writing, designing, and printing these two inch-long advertisements and sending them to more than 19,000 Chinese restaurants throughout the United States. "[We] noticed that the back of the clips are blank, and thought, ‘This is a great opportunity,’" company co-founder Matt Williams told the Post. (It's probably worth noting that Williams is the same guy who invented those little beer shelves that are mounted above the urinals in NFL stadium bathrooms.)
According to Digiday, Willams and Shawn Porat have spent eight-plus years working with fortune cookie factories and restaurants, and trying to entice potential clients to put their slogans inside those otherwise innocent cookies. Last August, Capital One bought 10 MILLION FORTUNES that were distributed to an estimated 5,000 Chinese restaurants. "This is our dream: You’re never going to get a cookie without an ad,” Porat told the outlet, which honestly sounds more like a threat.
Although Porat said that he came up with the idea for branded fortunes during a meal at a Brooklyn restaurant in 2010, the concept isn't an entirely new one. Robert F. Kennedy put campaign slogans ("He who picks KENNEDY picks a winner"; "Millions will love you. Vote KENNEDY") in fortune cookies before the 1968 presidential election. Now-defunct eBay subsidiary Half.com baked its own ads into as many as 20 million cookies all the way back in 2001, and a Czech ad agency worked with Orbit gum on branded fortunes that reminded customers to finish their dinner with—what else?—a piece of Orbit.
Regardless, OpenFortune says that it is already working with a whopping 45% of the Chinese restaurants in the United States, so it's only a matter of time before we all get credit card offers in our cookies. We're not psychic, but we predict that those little pieces of paper will be going straight into the trash.