Tag Archives: billboards

Brex: A reminder about digital vs traditional acquisition

13 Nov

Brex is a billion-dollar valued startup that makes charge cards for startups.

One of their most profitable acquisition channels is . . . . . billboards:

Image result for brex billboard

BILLBOARDS!!!! While this is going to be surprising to many, it fits with what we’veĀ  learned from many advertising experiments: the things that are hardest to measure often provide the best opportunity to create value.

These billboards — which were blanketed across the Bay Area for $300,000 — significantly outperformed the digital channels that seem so obvious for a brand targeting U.S. startup execs. They use the billboards to get companies to sign-up for their charge cards: there goal is to get startup founders, CEO’s, or CFO’s to take action and adopt or switch to Brex’s cards for their employees.

Why do these billboards outperform digital acquisition channels for Brex? One factor is that digital channels work best for things that have a large stream of search activity, for products that are easily merchandised visually, and where there is an obvious audience that is under-targeted by other companies. None of these things are the case for Brex. Digital channels are easy to test and scale and the end result is that the market price for a conversion scales very high very fast: it’s going to be set by the company that has the highest monetization value per impression which requires a big stream of revenue and a high conversion rate.

Billboards offer opportunity for customer acquisition for a few reasons. First, traditional billboards are hard to setup and tough to scale. To get a billboard ad running, you need to develop a visual advertisement, get on the phone and deal with a media agency or outdoor advertising company, research locations for each billboard you want to buy, and do a bunch of other things that make tests slow and costly. Second, billboards and other “out-of-home” advertisements are tough to measure. Brex, like many smart companies, solved this by asking prospects in their sign-up funnel how they heard about Brex making it easy to attribute conversions back to their billboard investments.

It’s also worth noting that Brex’s advertising creative is quite strong: It’s readable, memorable, visually distinctive, and clear. This is hard but necessary for performance.



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