Billboard ads placed along roadways and on public transportation seem like an old-school way to advertise. You wouldn’t think businesses would find much value in them given all the cheaper, high-tech forms of marketing.
Yet, certain companies—ones that certainly know a thing or two about digital marketing—are finding great success with their billboard ad campaigns.
Boxed, a startup that sells wholesale packaged goods via a mobile app (consider it the Costco of e-commerce), has placed ads on New York City’s subway trains in recent months. The ads offer a promo code that subway riders can use to get 15 percent off their first Boxed order.
While this so-called out-of-home advertising is more expensive and harder to track than, say, running a Facebook ad, it’s shown itself to be effective, Boxed CEO Chieh Huang told Adweek. That’s because the subway ads are focused on a specific goal: Getting people—subway riders, in this case—to feel comfortable shopping via their mobile phone.
Moreover, Boxed can capture riders’ attention for a longer time period when they’re sitting on the subway and hopefully even get them to download the app before they hop off the train.“We've tried a lot of ROI-based ad networks, and [out-of-home] averages out if you do it right,” Huang says. “Even though it is more expensive, we can recoup the costs.”
GrubHub, an online food takeout company, has also found success with subway billboard ads, while Facebook recently began placing billboards promoting its Messenger app along highways and on trains in Los Angeles and Chicago. “We're capturing people when they're on the way home from work, when they're hungry, so it's natural to drive them to download the app,” Abby Hunt, a rep for GrubHub, told Adweek.
For a small business, determining whether an out-of-home ad such as a subway ad or a roadside billboard make financial sense, often depends on the business model and whether the business can get that on-the-go audience to take notice. An online business, for example, may want to direct consumers to their website or app—similar to what Boxed does—and offer them a special discount. A local business might use an amusing or attention-grabbing roadside billboard to create buzz and make a splash in the market.
It’s an opportunity for a small business to stand out and connect with consumers at a time when the online advertising world is starting to look very crowded.
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