BELLEVUE, Wash. - A start-up in Bellevue has taken the concept of billboards, made it digital, and a lot smaller. Nomad has launched the product on college campuses around the country -- starting with the University of Washington.
On the way to class on Monday, Derek Ishii made $15 on the University of Washington campus.
You’ve probably seen a human sandwich board before — those people who wear advertisements like a poncho. Think of Ishii as the millennial version of that.
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“On my way to class, I just open up the app, click the start advertising button,” Derek told us, showing us the iPad he straps to his backpack or the front of his chest.
He’s a "nomad" — working for the Bellevue start-up with the same name.
Jonah Friedl, 23 — barely out of college himself — founded the company when a restaurant he worked for while attending Washington State University tasked him with developing a unique strategy to attract student customers.
“If we want to put people on campus, put these representatives on campus — it’s really hard to do that — hard to track, hard to manage," Friedl said. "So we thought we could build some technology to help us out with that."
Here’s how it works: A brand like KIRO 7 will advertise on the screen. The nomad then wears the screen around campus. Due to sensors in the screen, the company can tell which areas they go to and how many interactions they have.
Then, Friedl tracks it.
“This shows density of exposure—where they’re getting the most impressions,” he told us, showing us a map of the University of Washington campus on his computer, with areas highlighted like weather radar.
Sometimes impressions mean handing out a coupon card with a code, seeing how many are redeemed -- “and then correlate sales or app downloads and attribute that to Nomad,” Jonah said.
The nomads themselves — mostly college students — can lease an iPad from Nomad (the company) or use their own. Like ride share drivers, they “walk” when they want to, with some limitations.
“Obviously 1 a.m. on a Monday isn’t very valuable, so we can kind of control when they’re out there and when it’s available to them,” Friedl said.
Ishii does it every day — he says — because getting paid to walk to class is what’s paying for class.
“Most of the financial responsibility is on me for paying for college,” Ishii concluded.
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