Romanian tech start-up uses GameStop frenzy to raise interest in billboards

BUCHAREST, April 1 (Reuters) - At the height of GameStop’s Reddit-driven retail trading frenzy this year, Romanian tech start-up TPS Engage ran an $18 meme ad about the video game retailer on a digital billboard in Times Square.

The ad, which ran for one hour and said “$GME GO BRRR,” the sound a money printer makes, became the second-most popular post in Reddit history.

It stoked the conversation about Game Stop further, but it also drew over 40,000 people to TPS Engage, a tech start-up founded in 2018 as a marketplace for digital billboards which has made outdoor advertising accessible to any business.

“If the GameStop saga showed people that anyone can be a trader on Wall Street, we showed them that anyone can be an advertiser in Times Square,” TPS Engage co-founder Matei Psatta told Reuters.

“A simple billboard showed people ... they can do it without having to sell a kidney.”

TPS Engage is connected to billboard infrastructure software in dozens of countries and connects billboard owners to businesses seamlessly through an online platform, enabling firms with low marketing budgets to tap the outdoor ad market.

On Thursday, the company will put up for sale a video of its Brr billboard as a non-fungible token (NFT) on Open Sea, the NFT marketplace, and Psatta said they plan to use the proceeds to run other billboards on social causes in the future.

NFTs are a digital signature saved on blockchain ledgers that allow someone to verify the ownership and authenticity of items.

TPS Engage started out with two billboards in the Romanian capital Bucharest. It launched in the United States in March 2020 during the new coronavirus pandemic at a time when the industry was seeing double digit losses and it now has access to over 300,000 billboards in 35 countries.

“We don’t enforce a long-term commitment, the minimum unit for sale is one hour, the maximum one month,” Psatta said. (Reporting by Luiza Ilie, Editing by William Maclean)