Billboard advertising has been a staple of the advertising industry for over 150 years. As the advertising industry transitions from static billboards to digital advertising, one small company founded in Bismarck is making waves in the industry. Lucit, launched in 2020, is the first software application to put advertising clients in control of changing their advertisements on digital billboards in real time.
Lucit was co-founded in 2019, by Gina Gordon and Eric Kubischta, with the goal of assisting creatives in their OOH, or Out of Home, digital advertising, including roadside digital billboards. Lucit created and runs software that allows users to launch and alter their advertisements on digital billboards in real-time, as well as track their ads through statistics including impressions made and billboards displayed on.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Gordon and Kubischta to discuss Lucit’s history, what makes them stand out from other companies in the industry, as well as what they envision for the future of Lucit.
What is OOH?
Facets of the advertising industry, including billboards, are referred to as OOH, or “Out of Home.” OOH refers to any form of advertising media that is outside of the home. This includes digital screens, static billboards, bus stations, gas pumps and more.
“You can stand in front of a billboard right now with Lucit and control your billboard campaign from your phone.”-Eric Kubischta
Did You Know?
Billboard advertising first became prevalent in the 1830s near street railways!
From The Month of Co-Founder Eric Kubischta
“You own a retail store and have something that you want to advertise. What do you do? You take out your phone and post to Instagram, Facebook or another platform. That’s the mechanism that any marketer under the age of 30 is doing.
There are a couple of reasons why they do that. First, it’s easy to post to social media. The other reason is that you get this real-time feedback that makes you feel good because somebody liked or commented on it. Then the platform says, ‘Hey, 138 people saw your site post!’ and you tend to feel valued.
Additionally, with static billboards, you have to design something and email it to somebody by a Friday at noon, and then hopefully, they’ll start it on Monday. What’s happening is you have tons of marketers, both young and old, that just don’t engage with billboard marketing because of all these factors. They don’t do it because it’s not easy to do, they don’t have any real-time engagement and they don’t have any control over it.
On the other hand, what we do at Lucit is say, ‘Listen, here’s our app. We’ll set up a build-out contract for you, and you can control and put advertisements out through the app at your leisure.’ If you have an idea at 1:00 am on a Monday night, you can post that to the billboards specified by you. You don’t have to contact anybody and you can just do it. That’s really what Lucit is all about. We call it an engagement platform because it’s really about engaging with this advertising in a way that we couldn’t before.”
What Can Lucit’s App Do For You?
- Creation of new ads
- Deletion of inventory items not wished to advertise
- Control of ad frequency
- Review of stats
And much more, all from your phone!
The History Behind Lucit
Gordon and Kubischta may be working toward modernizing the advertising industry on a nationwide scale. However, the idea for the product first came to mind on a more local, homegrown scale. “I was sitting at a Taco John’s drivethru watching an iDigital billboard flip through its rolling advertisements. Then, I saw an ad come up on the billboard for a local radio station featuring a popular song. However, it wasn’t the song currently playing on the station. I began to think, could we display that information in real tiem ,” Kubischta said.
“At that point, it clicked in my mind that these could potentially be connected to the internet with real-time data. I thought to myself, ‘Man, I wonder if we can put cars on billboards and automate that?’ When I got home that night, I called Gina and said, ‘I think we can put cars on billboards; let’s do this’,” Kubischta said.
Since then, they’ve learned much about the advertising industry. “When we started learning more and more about the industry as a whole, we quickly realized how few advancements have been made recently,” Kubischta said.
“There is a lot of amazing tech in the industry, but it hasn’t necessarily coalesced into something that’s easy to purchase or use. Over the past few years, we’ve been working on our application, which is an application that allows digital billboard clients to generate and launch advertisements to digital billboard screens on their own.”
Having worked together at their positions before Lucit, Kubischta and Gordon were already solidified as collaborators prior to the journey.
Showing Off Our Mothers!
This past Mother’s Day, Lucit took part in running a Mother’s Day campaign with iDigital billboards. This campaign allowed any community member to submit their mother’s name, along with a photo, to a digital billboard in their area! While they were expecting only 20-30 people to take part, over 300 people submitted Mother’s Day billboard photos! “April 27, 2022, was the first time ever that somebody who wasn’t a business owner posted something on a billboard. That’s the first time that ever happened and it’s incredible that it happened in North Dakota. It really is historical for us,” Kubischta claimed.
These maps showcase the number of impressions made by an ad, the time that is shown on a screen and more statistics for the client!
“If you want to post on a billboard, you just pick something from your phone, caption it and then it will automatically make a creative. If they want to add stuff, they can make changes and the software will update the creatives automatically.”-Gina Gordon
How Lucit Operates (and Stands Out)
Today, Lucit is officially in 20% of states across the country.
“If you take a look at digital advertising on the Internet social platforms, there has sort of been a plateau. The stuff you were doing on Facebook and Instagram is pretty much the same as five years ago,” Kubischta said. “It’s about determining what types of advertising mediums are effective and what advertising mediums are growing? This is the only advertising medium that has seen major growth over the past few years, because of digital screens. We’re building applications at a time when there are a ton of startups like us, and we’re all working at solving different problems in the industry. It’s a really rare thing to be able to be building software at a time when there’s growth in the moment, rather than building software five years after the growth happened.”
With Lucit’s technology, they get real-time analytics that can be broken down and checked at any time. For real estate customers, they are able to pull the price, address, photo and other details form MLS listings in the area directly to the billboard.
“They can come into the app and say, ‘I want Haley to have more plays than Jared.’ As quickly as they can update the screen from static to digital, they can make more money from the digital screen. There’s a lot of growth in the future as they convert them over time,” Gordon said.
While Lucit may have had an open market from the beginning with a revolutionary idea, that isn’t to say that they have had the easiest of journeys. Not long after Lucit was founded, many aspects of our lives were changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the struggles that Lucit faced during the pandemic was an automotive inventory shortage. “That was extremely difficult because car dealers didn’t have to advertise their inventory. Either they didn’t have any or they didn’t need to advertise,” Kubischta said.
Furthermore, many faced the new norm of working from home during the pandemic. As less time was spent outside and driving on the road by everyday community members, an increasing number of advertisers felt less pressure to advertise, as fewer eyes on the road equated to fewer eyes on the advertisements.
Another obstacle was the level of freedom that users would be granted to allow for efficiency in uploading their advertisements. Lucit strategized a middle ground between complete freedom and the necessary restrictions to prevent unsafe content from being uploaded.
“We have a manual approval process, as well as an AI learning algorithm that does image recognition to look for offensive material. We also built a trust model. So an operator that owns this on the screen can say, ‘I trust Grant to post to my billboard, so I’m just going to let him do that.’ However, if a new customer comes along, they might not have as much trust in them and would rather queue that for approval,” Kubischta said.
An Untapped Potential
“To give an idea of the scale of digital out-of-home advertising, there are somewhere between 1 and 2 million billboards (static and digital) in the United States. Of those, there are only about 12,000 digital billboards. If you think about it, all of the static structures can all support a digital billboard, yet only a fraction of them have digital screens. As the industry transitions, the growth over the next ten years is going to be phenomenal.”-Eric Kubischta
“Let’s say you’re running an automotive advertisement with the price included. If there are price changes, our software will automatically regenerate the creative for the billboard!”-Gina Gordon
Looking past the long drain on our economy, as well as the obstacle of approval, the advertising industry and Lucit are seeing success like never before in today’s climate. “In January of 2021, we earned our first dollar from an audible campaign. That was about a year after we started working on our platform. Since then, we’ve increased our revenue by 2400% in the past 12 months,” Kubischta said. “It’s great, but we have a long way to go. It takes time to build a business. Any startup out there takes more money and more time than most imagine at the beginning. That’s why startups fail; they don’t plan for how much time and money it really takes to get a product into the market.”
Looking Back on Beginning
While they’ve found a market to successfully advertise to and work with today, that’s not to say that they didn’t have to make a few hard decisions, especially at the beginning of their journey. One of the hardest things for the team was deciding the size of scope Lucit would tackle. “Looking back, I think that the whole thing was a big risk. I think that it was a risk to really focus on one thing because we were like ‘Let’s do something for automotive,’ as we knew how to do that. When we started talking about this billboard idea, it was going to be just one of many things that we were going to do,” Gordon said. “But then, we dropped everything else that we were doing and focused on creating and marketing one wonderful thing. Today, I think that that was the correct move. It was risky because there were so many unknowns. I think that while we’ve made a lot of good decisions, it’s certainly a long road to making it perfect.”
Lucit recently expanded their office space within the same building, and plan to do the same if they keep seeing the growth they’re expecting!
When questioned about what’s next for them, the team appeared to be ambitious and ready to rise to greater heights over the coming years.
“Our biggest long-term plan is to become an end-to-end platform for getting something on the screen. There are still a lot of technical challenges, but there’s a lot of stuff we’re working on with the industry to overcome those challenges. We’re not only going to continue to add new features, but we’re also going to perfect the features we have so that as we grow, we don’t have bugs and it works really well,” Kubischta said. “Each state we move into drives us to think ‘Okay, this is awesome.’ We recently did a connection with an operator in Australia, as well as a convention discussion in Canada. Also, we recently completed a technical integration with Lamar Advertising, one of the biggest outdoor advertising companies in the United States. We’re going to be starting a test in Chicago that will be starting hopefully soon. I don’t think that many people actually know what we’re doing both in and out of our community. It’s really cool that we’re doing these big things and people would never think that we’re from North Dakota.”
With both short-term and long-term goals mapped out for Lucit, the team is not only excited for new connections, but also the ones that they’ve made over the years, as they can attribute many of them to their success. “We have good relationships with almost every company in this business on the tech side of things. Everybody’s working together to build this stuff out. I think that within the next few years, you’re going to have the ability to simply stand in front of a screen, look at it and put something on it. That’s our goal. No matter who you are, we believe that you should be able to do that efficiently,” Kubischta said.
Lucit has roughly 4,500 billboards (and counting) in its system at the time of writing.
“It’s exciting that most of our business isn’t done locally. It’s mainly out-of-state, but I think that’s what’s the most exciting thing. We never know what’s gonna happen next!”-Gina Gordon
Combining a passion for technology, offering something entirely different to the public and past networking connections have placed the company in a position for immense rapid growth. “We’re really passionate because this is exciting and brand new for the whole industry. It’s shocking when anyone is ever the first to think of something in advertising that nobody else is doing,” Kubischta said.
As they stay driven and keep their eyes on the next big opportunity, it’s hard to forget where they came from. Considering that the business plan first started with one small idea in a drive-thru, Lucit appears to be a business to bet on for years to come.