Mobile app Uproad uses digital billboards for education

Mobile app Uproad is looking to boost brand awareness by educating consumers on its offering via digital billboards and new digital video ads. Adding digital out-of-home billboards is a first for the nearly 2-year-old company, whose app allows users to pay tolls via a cashless system while they drive and whose competitors include EasyPass, EXpresstoll, and NationalPass.

“It will help educate people that there is an alternative option for paying tolls,” said Kathryn Kiritsis, director of product marketing and optimization at Uproad, observing that the way people pay tolls has remained relatively the same for years. “People are still using hardware in their cars, and I don’t think that people are familiar with the fact that you can download an app and use that app to pay tolls.”

To get the app’s message out, Uproad sought the help of Boston-based creative agency HeyLetsGo. The goal of Uproad is to increase brand awareness to make its app more appealing to traffic toll payers, and to get those people to use its app to pay the toll. This campaign is the first time Uproad has turned to digital billboard advertising, and the company sees it as a good way to reach its target audience. A number of these digital billboard ads will be placed in Dallas, Texas, including on the Dallas North Tollway.

Due to the cluttered digital space, brands are reconsidering the value of OOH and other traditional ad buys. There has also been an increase in OOH advertising due to the fact that people are more comfortable traveling, despite the ongoing pandemic. Uproad isn’t alone in leaning into OOH now. As previously reported by Digiday, startup brands such as Andie swimwear, JUDY emergency kits, dining app Seated and virtual healthcare app K Health have all launched OOH campaigns recently.

It’s unclear how much Uproad spends on advertising, as Kiritsis would not share specifics. However, Kiritsis did share that one-fifth of the entire ad budget was allocated to digital billboards and one-third of the budget was allocated to Google Ads, YouTube, Twitter and print billboards, with Google Ads often being given preference.

Data firm Kantar didn’t have ad spend data on record for the company. At the time of Uproad’s launch in September 2020, there had been a marked decline in travelers between those two years due to the pandemic. As a result, Uproad anticipated spending more money between the two years. The launch was timed poorly so the company didn’t have the budget to spend as much as expected. Over a period of three years, Uproad’s overall advertising budget was cut by a third.

Because the billboards will be in circulation for two months, travelers will have a greater chance of spotting one while driving on toll roads. “Out-of-home, such as digital billboards, are a strategic match both for targeting likely audiences and as a brand-building channel,” said Mat Zucker, senior partner and co-head of marketing and sales at strategy consultancy agency Prophet.

Considering that the target audience for Uproad’s campaign is travelers, truckers, commuters or salespeople traveling heavily on highways, social media is likely to perform better than traditional advertising in driving demand. “The use of digital billboards to promote their app contextually is great given the space Uproad is playing in and the success we regularly see with this tactic,” said Norm Chait, senior director at digital media and promotions tech company Quotient. “OOH is proven to drive search behavior after exposure so it’s a terrific way to amplify other media and drive consumer engagement.”

There is a strong desire by Uproad to educate consumers about what this means in their day-to-day travels and how its app can help drivers ease difficulties they may have paying tolls, as the process is often slow and convoluted, explained Kiritsis. Toll agencies typically track people down for their bills by mailing them a bill. Sometimes it can take months for a toll bill to arrive in the mail because that’s how long it takes to find out who owes what. Uproad offers a more immediate solution.

“Our goal is to get the word out,” said Kiritsis. “We have a solution that has a lot more flexibility for the consumer and hope that drives traffic to our owned properties and drives interest in our offering and interest in how we might be able to help the average consumer who may not even know that there’s an alternate way to pay for tolls.”

‘Our goal is to get the word out’: Mobile app Uproad uses digital billboards for education