When Carvertise had its first $1 million year in 2016, it was a rapidly growing company that hadn’t yet tapped into an advertising trend that would change the game for the industry: rideshare advertising.
“For the past 10 years, there’s been a societal change that’s been happening,” said Mac Nagaswami Macleod, the car-wrapping company’s charismatic cofounder, in a recent interview with Technical.ly. “Thirty-six percent of the entire U.S. workforce participates in the gig economy, either on the side or as a full-time hustle, whether it be TaskRabbit, Uber, Door Dash — you name it. The proliferation of the gig economy is a very, very contemporary cultural trend.”
Part of the rise of rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft — which Nagaswami Macleod calls “meteoric” — has to do with its sheer convenience compared to hailing a taxi. More people use rideshare today than they do taxis, by a wide margin, even in cities with a taxi culture like New York City.
The advertising industry, Nagaswami Macleod said, has not kept up with the cultural shift. Ad spending on taxi advertising is still closely tracked as a major market, while the rideshare advertising market is still virtually dataless.
Carvertise, which pays drivers to wrap their cars with brands’ ads, starting inviting rideshare drivers to wrap their cars early last year.
“There are 900,000 Uber drivers [as of 2018] — we’re not even counting Lyft,” he said. “There’s a new global class of vehicles moving around, and advertisers haven’t shifted their attention to this new way people move. It’s been Carvertise here in Wilmington, Delaware, pioneering this format on a national scale.”
According to Nagaswami Macleod, Carvertise is the world’s largest rideshare advertising company. Technical.ly’s research doesn’t dispute it: Carvertise’s closest competitor, the San Fransisco-based, venture capital-backed Wrapify, founded in 2015, doesn’t appear to be experiencing the same growth rate, with a reported 200,000 drivers overall (rideshare and otherwise). Carvertise reports 550,000 drivers overall in 75 markets.
The company is well-positioned in an industry that seems to be on the edge of a boom: A 2019 Neilsen out-of-home advertising study showed that wrapped cars are the most memorable form of transit-based advertiser.
“That [report] was a game changer for us,” Nagaswami Macleod said. “Intuitively, what you see less stands out more. A highly decorated wrapped car gets your attention. When they said that, that was really big.”
Especially since rapid growth had already been happening, before Neilsen’s report.
“We’ve had 150% growth per year,” he said. “It’s like everybody’s sleeping. We’re like — wake up! The trends have changed! And part of what has contributed to our high year-over-year growth is the fact that our brand partners recognize the changing trends.”
In Carvertise’s main markets, which, in addition to the Wilmington HQ are Philadelphia, New York City, Boston, Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles (all of which have local Carvertise sales teams), most brand partners are regional — businesses like law firms, fitness centers and restaurants.
“They get it,” he said. Major brands like EA Sports, Amazon and Sprint are also clients, often ordering campaigns that run in the many markets across the country where Carvertise has a presence.
The newest such market is Toronto, Canada — Carvertise’s first city outside of the United States. The Florida tourism marketing company Visit Tampa Bay strategically contracted a fleet of cars to be wrapped with its sunny, warm weather advertising during Toronto’s bitter winter season.
For Carvertise, which produces all of the car decals from two industrial printers at its Wilmington HQ, stepping into the international market is a big deal, both economically and logistically.
“It’s gone surprisingly smooth, which gives us positive encouragement,” Nagaswami Macleod said.
No word on when they’ll cross the ocean, but there have been overseas inquiries: “We’ve been asked about London, and as far as parts of Australia,” said the cofounder. “It’s a special time, and we’re pushing forward.”