Alexis Ohanian’s Billboards Aren’t (Quite) as Romantic as You Thought

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and his wife, the tennis star Serena Williams, make headlines not just for their entrepreneurial and tennis wins– but also for their frequent heart-melting romantic gestures. When he proposed marriage, she posted an aww-inducing poem on Reddit. He Snapped his late-night grocery-store runs during her pregnancy. And this week, he posted on Instagram and elsewhere photos of four billboards he’d purchased, featuring photos of their baby daughter and declaring Williams the “Greatest Momma of All Time.”

With this last gesture, though, there was an ulterior motive. Ohanian hinted at it in an email blast he sent out about the billboards, by including a link to AdQuick, a Los Angeles-based outdoor advertising startup.

Ohanian’s investment firm, Initialized Capital, invested in AdQuick in July 2017. Turns out, Ohanian had recently been looking for an excuse to eat his own dog food. What he actually said is this: “I was looking for an excuse to dogfood an Initialized Capital portfolio company.” In startup parlance, “to dogfood” is to use your own product; say, a company that markets software should employ that software internally.

“I was trying to come up with something to put on a billboard,” Ohanian told Inc. It was a chin-scratcher– but one day the answer dawned on him. And maybe drooled on him for good measure. He was sitting with his daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian. “The answer was literally in my lap–Junior.”

Ohanian decided to use photographs of Olympia on the billboards, timed to Williams’s return to competitive tennis, which is slated for next week in Indian Wells, California, at the BNP Paribas Tournament. He let Junior help– perhaps lending to the particularly adorable amateur-ish design. “Olympia also helped pick the photos based on how intensely she grabbed my phone and tried to eat it when I showed her a particular picture,” Ohanian said.

AdQuick helped Ohanian locate the billboards, plan a strategy for launching them, and purchase space on four billboards on I-10 outside of Palm Springs, not far from the tournament.

AdQuick was founded in 2016 by former executives of grocery-delivery startup Instacart. AdQuick aims to help clients looking for outdoor advertising not only purchase the space, but also vet locations and analyze the results. “It aggregates the widest variety of inventory nationwide, allows advertisers to book online, and helps close the loop on campaigns, with hard metrics on impact and results,” co-founder Matt O’Connor told Adweek.

AdQuick has already worked with companies such as Lyft and Peloton. It raised a seed round of funding in July, from Initialized and other firms, that totaled $1.1 million.

Ohanian is no stranger to outdoor advertising or stunt marketing for ideas he holds dear. In 2014, he crowdfunded and placed large advertisements around the Washington, D.C. area, protesting proposed net-neutrality rules. In 2012, he used a tour bus to promote open-internet initiatives, and purchased a billboard outside a Texas legislator’s office to protest a federal bill that Silicon Valley startups believed could throttle the flow of information online.

His latest effort are as much ads for a billboard company as they are a romantic gesture– and Ohanian admits his copy-writing skills might need some polishing before he tries again. He says his wife, who has won a record 23 Grand Slam tennis titles,  is “already the G.O.A.T. And while G.M.O.A.T. doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, maybe it’ll catch on.” 

Alexis Ohanian’s Billboards Aren’t (Quite) as Romantic as You Thought

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and his wife, the tennis star Serena Williams, make headlines not just for their entrepreneurial and tennis wins– but also for their frequent heart-melting romantic gestures. When he proposed marriage, she posted an aww-inducing poem on Reddit. He Snapped his late-night grocery-store runs during her pregnancy. And this week, he posted on Instagram and elsewhere photos of four billboards he’d purchased, featuring photos of their baby daughter and declaring Williams the “Greatest Momma of All Time.”

With this last gesture, though, there was an ulterior motive. Ohanian hinted at it in an email blast he sent out about the billboards, by including a link to AdQuick, a Los Angeles-based outdoor advertising startup.

Ohanian’s investment firm, Initialized Capital, invested in AdQuick in July 2017. Turns out, Ohanian had recently been looking for an excuse to eat his own dog food. What he actually said is this: “I was looking for an excuse to dogfood an Initialized Capital portfolio company.” In startup parlance, “to dogfood” is to use your own product; say, a company that markets software should employ that software internally.

“I was trying to come up with something to put on a billboard,” Ohanian told Inc. It was a chin-scratcher– but one day the answer dawned on him. And maybe drooled on him for good measure. He was sitting with his daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian. “The answer was literally in my lap–Junior.”

Ohanian decided to use photographs of Olympia on the billboards, timed to Williams’s return to competitive tennis, which is slated for next week in Indian Wells, California, at the BNP Paribas Tournament. He let Junior help– perhaps lending to the particularly adorable amateur-ish design. “Olympia also helped pick the photos based on how intensely she grabbed my phone and tried to eat it when I showed her a particular picture,” Ohanian said.

AdQuick helped Ohanian locate the billboards, plan a strategy for launching them, and purchase space on four billboards on I-10 outside of Palm Springs, not far from the tournament.

AdQuick was founded in 2016 by former executives of grocery-delivery startup Instacart. AdQuick aims to help clients looking for outdoor advertising not only purchase the space, but also vet locations and analyze the results. “It aggregates the widest variety of inventory nationwide, allows advertisers to book online, and helps close the loop on campaigns, with hard metrics on impact and results,” co-founder Matt O’Connor told Adweek.

AdQuick has already worked with companies such as Lyft and Peloton. It raised a seed round of funding in July, from Initialized and other firms, that totaled $1.1 million.

Ohanian is no stranger to outdoor advertising or stunt marketing for ideas he holds dear. In 2014, he crowdfunded and placed large advertisements around the Washington, D.C. area, protesting proposed net-neutrality rules. In 2012, he used a tour bus to promote open-internet initiatives, and purchased a billboard outside a Texas legislator’s office to protest a federal bill that Silicon Valley startups believed could throttle the flow of information online.

His latest effort are as much ads for a billboard company as they are a romantic gesture– and Ohanian admits his copy-writing skills might need some polishing before he tries again. He says his wife, who has won a record 23 Grand Slam tennis titles,  is “already the G.O.A.T. And while G.M.O.A.T. doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, maybe it’ll catch on.” 

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3 Trends From CES That Will Define Advertising in 2018

If you work in tech, or at the very least, have a Twitter account, you definitely heard about the blackout that took place at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). That’s right; a showcase of some of the most powerful companies, brands and products of the future was interrupted by rain.

Thankfully, the show went on, and I was able to observe the initiatives and trends being utilized by some of the top tech companies in the world. Here are three that I think will set the innovation agenda for advertising in 2018.

1. Battle Royale: Amazon vs. Google

CES was not about hardware. Sure, there were more cool gadgets than I could even begin to count, most of which are getting smaller and smaller. But these were hardly the focus of CES. Instead, it was a battle royale between Google and Amazon.

LG, Samsung and other tech brands of course had their own products on display; but they also had Amazon or Google reps at their booths, thanks to the growing popularity of their virtual assistants. Rather than competing to create the next hot item that you need in your kitchen, Amazon and Google are instead entrenched in a land grab for your data.

Why? Because it will help them inform the moments in consumers’ lives, allowing them to reach consumers more meaningfully. This is similar to what we do at Kiip — try to reach consumers at important moments in their day-to-day, not when it’s most convenient for us to bombard them with a pop-up.

Connected device data helps us understand consumers’ behaviors more intimately – in the home and in the car – more and more. You can imagine brands’ interest in targeting against that, so that they are ultimately providing the most current value as possible.

Business owners should think about how AI and assistants will can help their business. For example, you might consider joining early beta programs for Yelp and others to make your business searchable by assistants. You can even look into allowing your customers to make appointments using these assistants.

2. Screens Everywhere

Not to sound like your parents, but screens are literally everywhere. They’re all around us. Remember when we thought that digital billboards were cool? Ah, a simpler time.

Not only are screens everywhere, but they’re getting cheaper and thinner, like futuristic paper. This might sound scary (do we need screen protectors for our paper now?), but it’s honestly a pretty awesome development. Because of the newfound versatility of screens, we have the opportunity to make them even more creative. An entire wall can be your screen.

So what does this mean for advertisers? It means that we now have an endless canvas. No more ripping down billboards. You can utilize screen technology in a million different ways to get the same point across. Think dynamic, interactive billboards, and programmatic buying of OOH inventory. Companies like Clearchannel have already begun, and this type of advertising will become cheaper and cheaper, especially in out-of-home.

3. Experiences, Not Technology

One company that really got me thinking was Panasonic. The company envisioned the “stadium experience of the future.” In other words, making sporting events even more kick-ass than they already are. Validate your ticket from your seat. Receive drone deliveries of your favorite snacks and beverages. Whatever you might need to do when you’re at the ball game will be made easier by tech.

Brands like Panasonic are focused on showing us what an experience might be like with new technology. Full immersion into a seemingly perfect world, where we don’t have to rush to make a decision between nachos and a hot dog because there’s a line of 20 people behind us.

For advertisers, this means that brands can sponsor these experience opportunities. How about Amazon, already known for drone deliveries, sponsoring your concessions? Or Intel, who recently launched their first public showcase of facial recognition technology, sponsoring your ticket validation?

For small business entrepreneurs, you’ll want to consider how how can you be the first to create an experience in your business, so that the technology almost fades away. If you’re an independent accounting firm, consider using Slack with your clients, so that you feel less like an outsider and more like part of their everyday life. Or if you work in real estate, why not implement VR to preview homes with your clients? Whatever you do should be notable and different from others, so that audiences can only come to you to get it.

Keep an eye out for these trends throughout the year, or get a jump start right now and figure out how your company can utilize them.