Nearly a decade ago, ADstruc was formed as a software company designed to automate the out-of-home planning and buying process by tracking ad inventory in the sector nationwide.
Interpublic was impressed enough with the firm’s ability to convince major vendors and hundreds of smaller regional owners across the country to plug into the ADstruc system that it bought a minority stake in 2014.
Along the way, over a dozen additional agencies—including Active International and Haworth--licensed the software to help streamline their OOH planning and activation efforts.
ADstruc itself even opened its own agency—Project X-- several years back in order create a second revenue stream working directly with advertisers.
But now, ADstruc is no more. Company founder John Laramie says the firm made a decision to exit the licensing business to focus full-time on the agency operation. Over the course of the last year just about all of the licenses to outside agencies have expired and are not being renewed.
Laramie said the exception is IPG—which remains an investor—and its OOH specialist Rapport.
Laramie says that the pivot away from licensing was due to the fact that much of the industry just wasn’t ready to make the switch to automation. At least not as rapidly as he would have liked. “They all told us we nailed it,” he says. “But as we spent more and more time with these specialist agencies, we found that they weren’t moving as fast as we wanted. Or they didn’t put the appropriate emphasis on technology.”
Meanwhile, Project X has experienced rapid growth in the past couple of years, utilizing the automation technology. The firm posted $75 million in billings in 2018, up about 45% from the 2017. Last year Inc. magazine recognized the firm as one of the fastest growing in the country based on its three-year growth rate.
The agency now has 34 employees. In addition to its New York headquarters, it has teams in Denver, LA, Portland and Nashville.
“We concluded that it was easier for a technology company to become an agency than an agency to become a technology company,” Laramie says.
While the licensing business is no more, the company’s tech platform continues to evolve. “All of our tech is built in-house by our engineers and they sit right next to our team of OOH experts that are using the software every day,” he says.
On top of the inventory data PJX can overlay audience data (like Neustar, Liveramp or first-party). “We’ve even built a tool that algorithmically identifies the units that will meet a client’s specific audience delivery goals,” says Laramie. “And when clients need help determining which markets or format to focus on, we leverage historical campaign data to show them what works.”
Laramie believes his software can transform the OOH industry. And he is now using his own agency to make the case.