For two years, the founders of NoiseStreet were unable to cause even a whimper.
Bhagaban Behera and Abhineet Yadav, who were among the first batch of Founder Institute Singapore graduates, incorporated the company in August 2010, fervent in their belief that they could disrupt outdoor advertising by adding interactivity and merging it with the digital world.
But things started to go wrong really fast.
They were unable to find any traction for a combination of reasons. According to Bhagaban, their product wasn’t polished, and Internet access wasn’t yet widespread in commercial locations like shopping malls and retail stores.
“Also, smartphones then weren’t really smart and the technology we used wasn’t scalable,” the CEO added.
So the company pivoted, shifting focus from the advertising industry to events and conferences. It launched RedSparro, a location-based social network, at the Global Mobile Internet Conference in Beijing in May 2011.
The results were underwhelming. While it got a bit of traction, they soon realized that it wasn’t going to grow to the extent they wanted. Once again, they had to look elsewhere.
The duo then started noticing that demand for their initial product was picking up, and the technology and infrastructure were improving. So they revisited their original idea, going back to square one.
By then, the time did seem right for NoiseStreet to make a foray into the outdoor advertising market. In Singapore at least, we’ve been seeing more interactive outdoor ads being attempted by brands. Cold Storage supermarket introduced QR-code enabled grocery shopping along a couple of train stations during Christmas season last year, while PayPal did their own version for Valentine’s Day.
NoiseStreet, which is funded by i.Jam, landed a trial run during the launch of Plugin@Blk71, a startup incubation space run by NUS Enterprise. Through a few smart TVs, NoiseStreet enabled students to play treasure hunt games and win prizes, while at the same time learn more about Plugin.
In 2012, they scored a coup, partnering with outdoor advertising company SPHMBO to pilot test their interactive game at 313@Somerset, a bustling shopping mall along Orchard Road.
The gamified marketing campaign, which promotes GongCha, a popular bubble tea brand in Singapore, launched on 24th October this year and is still ongoing. It uses a large video screen in the mall as a games space. Passers-by can participate by scanning the QR code on the screen, after which the game will then show pictures which the players have to guess. If they can figure out 5 drawings, they would win GongCha vouchers.
Besides providing brands novel ways to engage with customers, it also gives them analytics to track engagement and sales, a feature that traditional billboards lack.
Bhagaban is unable to disclose any precise data or payment terms regarding the campaign at this point, although he shared that over a hundred people have participated and won vouchers each day in the two hours that the game runs. A majority of them have gone on to redeem their prizes.
NoiseStreet is already looking beyond the pilot test: it is in talks with media operators in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and India. It is also looking to break out of the advertising space and take another stab at events and conferences. Classrooms are also a part of the company’s plans.
Looking further ahead, it will eventually open up its platform for third-party developers to publish content on a revenue-share model.
Perhaps it won’t be long before we see the startup venturing into the the streets and onto the biggest billboards, where it truly belongs.