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Growing fast, Carvertise leases Riverfront HQ

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Carvertise has grown over its first decade, powered in part by tourism brands like St. Petersburg, Fla., looking to reach potential visitors in colder cities. | PHOTO COURTESY OF CARVERTISE

WILMINGTON – What began as an idea by two University of Delaware entrepreneurs a decade ago to utilize personal vehicles of high-mileage drivers as billboards has blossomed into one of the hottest outdoor advertising companies in America: Carvertise.

To keep pace with that exploding growth and interest, the company has signed a 10-year lease for about 16,000 square feet in the Shipyard Center in Wilmington’s Riverfront for its future headquarter offices, said CEO Mac Macleod, who founded the firm with Greg Star.

Carvertise will soon move its headquarter offices to the Shipyard Center in Wilmington’s Riverfront. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

The company’s offices currently share space with its production facility in a converted warehouse in Wilmington’s Browntown neighborhood, but Macleod said it “became too much” to try to manage the two halves of the business in one small space.

Carvertise looked at a number of different spaces from Newark to Newport, Wilmington to Claymont, but it inked a deal for the space in the Riverfront because they were drawn to its scenic surroundings.

“We’re coming from a dark warehouse, where we had like one window. When we would open up the garage door, people’s mood would viscerally change. So, I said this next spot had to have a ton of natural light,” he recalled.

Carvertise currently employs about 35 people, but Macleod expects to add 10 by the end of the year. The new headquarters space could accommodate 125 to 150 people, he said.

While about 80% of the company’s campaigns are happening in other parts of the country, especially California and Florida, Macleod said Carvertise never looked to leave its Delaware home, in part because of the flourishing remote work environment.

“Finance, accounting, operations, marketing, etc. – all that stuff can live together underneath one roof. It doesn’t matter how many campaigns we’re running in Chicago, Houston or Miami. We can do that from here,” he said, noting that many of their largest clients aren’t coming from Top 10 metro markets anyway. “We still get face-to-face executive time at conferences.”

Carvertise has begun using “swarms,” or a number of cars in a specific location, such as sporting events, to promote clients. | PHOTO COURTESY OF CARVERTISE

Carvertise, which utilizes vinyl wraps of vehicles to promote TV shows, college enrollment, new medical service, and more, has a population of about 550,000 drivers in the U.S. and Canada to draw from, with 200 to 300 signing up every day, Macleod said. In 2019, the company refocused its business directly at drivers for rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft, and delivery platforms like DoorDash, Amazon Flex, Uber Eats, Instacart, GrubHub and goPuff.

They found that rideshare and delivery drivers, who were already using their personal vehicles for income, were keener on the opportunity and tended to travel in the most sought-after areas by advertisers. Carvertise was concerned about how their larger partners would perceive the strategy pivot though, Macleod said. It turns out that their concerns about aesthetics and driver experience were unfounded.

“Instantly they liked us because we’re helping supplement the income that the drivers are making from their rideshare activity,” he said, noting that reducing the turnover of drivers is their primary concern.

“We’ve had multiple conversations with each one just kind of outlining the premises of what we’re dealing with, and sometimes we’re poking around on a larger scale partnership,” he said, noting some of those discussions are still ongoing.

Today, Carvertise has remote sales teams in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Tampa and San Diego, and counts major brands like Netflix, Draft Kings, Wawa, EA Sports, Buffalo Wild Wings, and more as clients.

While promotional campaigns of three to six months revolving around new products or services, especially in health care and higher education, still are popular, Carvertise is seeing an increasing number of annual campaigns, because the cost per car falls, Macleod said. It is also seeing more three-day campaigns that it calls “swarms,” typically located near a conference or major sporting event – it did the Super Bowl this year for a California health care system.

“We’ve had clients that chose to wrap 30 Uber cars to drive around a conference, picking up the attendants, rather than paying to make their booth bigger,” he explained. “It’s such a unique differentiator that only we can do. You can’t move a billboard or tell a bus where to go.”

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