ADstruc Promises Simpler Campaigns for Billboard Advertisers

Startup creates the 'plumbing' for buying outdoor ads

Not even the billboard advertising world is immune to online transformation—at least, that's what John Laramie, CEO of a startup called ADstruc, is hoping.

Laramie says the company was founded, in part, as a response to how old-fashioned the billboard ad-buying process remains. Recalling the first time he tried to place an ad, Laramie says he was reduced to bicycling around town, spotting billboards, and writing down phone numbers. There was no central online marketplace for billboards. So ADstruc is trying to fill that hole.

Until now, however, ADstruc's services were built for buying and selling individual ads. That makes sense for small businesses, startups, and other small promotions (such as digital agency HUGE's recruitment drive for former Borders employees), but that doesn't work for campaigns from the biggest brands and agencies. That's why ADstruc has started inviting agencies to start using a new service that's designed specifically for their needs.

Instead of buying a billboard at a time, an agency can now post their normal "request for proposal" on the ADstruc site, and the different billboard companies can bid to take part. Then, as the agency makes its decisions, it can see exactly where each ad will be displayed.

Laramie describes this as his way to turn a process dominated by email and spreadsheets into something more efficient—and, ultimately, to create the "plumbing" for agencies to manage all of their outdoor advertising. At the same time, he says he's sensitive to the billboard companies' needs for secrecy, and he notes that the pricing, for example, can remain confidential. Laramie says that "oftentimes, efficiency comes through disruption," but he's hoping to avoid that here.