The Best and Worst of Startup Billboards
The narrative around most, if not all, tech startups centers around disruption – they’re doing business in a way that upends all the conventional wisdom. But when it comes to finding new users or clients, sometimes the old way is the best – billboards.
The billboards have become so inescapable, in fact, that HBO’s Silicon Valley began parodying the phenomenon earlier this year, with a series of billboards declaring, “I am Pied Piper”.
The trend really took off in 2011, when then-unknown search engine DuckDuckGo paid $7,000 for a billboard in San Francisco that declared, “Google tracks you. We don’t.” Within a month, their user base had doubled.
Ride sharing platform Gett also took on an 800-pound gorilla (specifically, Uber) head on in their recent Surge Sucks campaign, featured on billboards and buses throughout New York City. And Lyft has begun targeting gridlocked drivers with their This Is a Bad Sign. billboards.
Genius launched the startup’s annotations platform last year with this cryptic billboard in downtown Manhattan.
Thankfully it isn’t all bro culture. In September 2015, #ILookLikeAnEngineer raised more than $47,000 on Indiegogo to put up billboards “showing, celebrating, supporting, and encouraging the diversity [in tech]”. (They reached nearly 300% of their funding goal on the first day).
Sometimes those billboards move. Post-Brexit, Germany’s Free Democratic Party advertised on the side of van that cruised around London, blaring the message “Dear start-ups, Keep calm and move to Berlin.”
Of course it’s not all rosy – inevitably there are the failed, controversial attempts at being risqué. Most recently, car-on-demand mobile app Skurt raised eyebrows in Los Angeles with their less-than-subtle phallic imagery.
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