Billboards and Startups

Driving up and down the 101 in Silicon Valley you’ll see a highway littered with billboards for startups and established technology companies. Some of these billboards are advertising products and some are advertising job openings (“you could be at work now and commute less…”). With all the talk of moving off-line spending online, billboards in my city seem to be doing fine as there is no shortage of advertisers for them.

Last week RippleIT put up a new billboard in a prime part of town to increase brand awareness in an area dense with attorneys and creative types. The goal isn’t necessarily to directly produce leads, although that would be nice, but rather to educate people on the brand so that they’re more likely to respond to an outbound call or referral.

Interestingly, very few billboards have unique web addresses on them to track how many times people typed in the value.  Yes, some have QR codes, which is even crazier, but I would think short web addresses would be common by now. Perhaps billboard advertisers are less savvy or they know more than I do and don’t bother with unique URLs since no one types them in anyway.

With the talent war and talent shortage in certain areas I suspect that we’ll start seeing more billboards for startups outside of Silicon Valley. Startups need to make a more concerted effort to extract smart people out of large companies so that they have the opportunity to be a part of something much more exciting. Billboards aren’t the only answer but they can be part of a comprehensive solution.

What else? What are your thoughts on billboards and startups?

2 thoughts on “Billboards and Startups

  1. Few billboards have unique web addresses, but unique tracking telephone numbers are another way to track response.

    The phone number on Ripple’s billboard is a unique tracking telephone number provided by CallRail ( With it, Ripple will know how many calls are driven by the billboard.

    We’ve seen hundreds of companies successfully use call tracking numbers to quantify both online and offline marketing campaigns.

    (Disclosure: We’re an Atlanta-based startup, I’m a co-founder. We don’t typically disclose our clients, but Ripple gave us their blessing on this one.)

  2. This was something I considered. But i knew no one would go to a custom URL like I also thought of using a vanity url like, but then I knew I’d have to have a different one for every campaign (billboards, cars, ads, etc.). In the end, I decided that the domain name is just part of the brand, and that the most realistic outcome would be someone trying to remember it, probably muttering it under their breath until they got to work (“,,”). We’ll see if that strategy works 🙂

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