Launches Startup Ads on Billboards and NYC Subway


When Alex Ewing was a kid growing up in Purcell, Oklahoma, he gauged his proximity to home by the billboards he saw out the car window. Now, as the CEO of, he’s enabling startups like fintech company Ramp and technical recruiter Karat to advertise on billboards and other platforms.

“I think billboards are cool and help bring creativity back into marketing,” Ewing told Truth Voices. “They are like canvases for marketers in a way a digital screen isn’t.”

Ewing joined Boston-based OneScreen last year. The company serves as a software-enabled intermediary between startups and out-of-home (OOH) advertising slots like billboards, subway ads, and more. OneScreen helps startups find the right ad placements by pairing the companies’ target customer profiles with demographic and historical data from the platform. The company also uses anonymized location data to track the success of ad campaigns.

OneScreen has raised $4.7 million from investors, including Asymmetric Capital Partners, Techstars, and Impellent Ventures. The company is currently profitable and tripled its revenue last year.

OOH marketing, including billboards, is gaining popularity, especially among startups, Ewing said. U.S. OOH advertising spend is expected to reach $9.3 billion this year and nearly $12 billion by 2029, according to Statista.

Why would a B2B company like Ramp advertise on city buses or inside subway cars?

Ewing explained that companies are revisiting OOH advertising strategies after years of focusing on digital marketing. Privacy regulations, ad blockers, and reduced effectiveness have made online ads less attractive.

“B2B, B2C, companies everywhere from Series A, Series B, [companies that are] really well funded or publicly traded have said, ‘we can’t invest what we’ve been investing in digital anymore, the ROI isn’t there,’” Ewing said. “It continues to get more and more expensive and it’s getting less and less effective.”

This type of advertising builds brand recognition, which is valuable for B2B companies, even if most viewers aren’t potential customers.

In February, Hila Perl, director of strategic communications at Papaya Global, told Truth Voices that B2B HR startup Papaya bought a $7 million Super Bowl ad for brand awareness rather than lead generation.

“It’s not a lead generation move,” Perl said about the company’s ad purchase. “It’s not so we can sell more. Obviously, yes, we want to see a very direct ROI, but we all understand this is a brand building or a brand awareness play, it’s not a lead generation play. In my mind, it’s always a marathon rather than a sprint.”

While OneScreen can’t control who sees an OOH ad, Ewing said his company can still help companies target specific audiences. B2B companies can provide OneScreen with a list of target customer companies, and OneScreen’s technology will develop a strategy that includes ad placements near those companies’ headquarters or commuting routes. It uses anonymized cell phone tracking data to measure reactions to the ads, such as increased website traffic from those who passed the ad.

The downside is that the ROI on OOH ads isn’t as easily tracked as digital ad clicks leading to online purchases. However, the hope is that a New York MTA bus wrapped in a Ramp ad will be more effective than a cold sales pitch email.

“There is nothing more powerful than seeing a company and brand in the real world,” Ewing said. “If you get that in front of the right people, that can be a powerful way to soften the beachhead for inbound or to simply just drive leads.”

Rebecca Szkutak
Rebecca Szkutak
Rebecca is a senior writer that covers venture capital trends and startups. She previously covered the same beat for Forbes and the Venture Capital Journal.

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