Magazine article ADWEEK

Tech Startups Hit Highway 101

Magazine article ADWEEK

Tech Startups Hit Highway 101

Article excerpt

Startups may rule Silicon Valley, but until recently, you wouldn't have known it driving up Route 101, the region's main highway. In the past year or so, however, billboards have started popping up with messages from companies like Zynga, Zoosk, and Zazzle.

Travel startup Hipmunk, for example, recently purchased billboard space south of San Francisco to promise commuters "agony-free travel search." Hipmunk's public relations director Jacqueline Tauzella says the decision was inspired, in part, by all the other tech billboards that employees saw as they drove between Silicon Valley and San Francisco. A local billboard, they realized, would be a way to continue reaching the early adopter techie audience while also going a little broader. "We thought, 'Hey, we could do that too,'" Tanzella says. "We're competing with those big dogs."

As with any form of advertising, billboards can help strike a blow against the competition. Sometimes companies are competing for customers. Sometimes they're battling for engineers--social gaming company Zynga's billboards are all about recruiting employees, not FarmVille players.

Japanese competitor GREE is also looking to billboards to help build its presence in the United States. Sho Masuda, vp of marketing for GREE, says that despite its success in Japan, GREE doesn't have the same recognition in the U.S., so it faces "lots of challenges" recruiting talent. By placing multiple billboards in the Bay Area (including one on top of Zynga's San Francisco headquarters), Masuda hopes to get "the right message to the right people. …

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