30 Seconds with Mac Nagaswami, CEO of Carvertise
The 25-year-old CEO chats from his new headquarters in the Hercules Building.
Photo by Luigi Ciuffetelli
Advertising is everywhere you look—from billboards on major roadways to print and broadcast media to bathroom walls. But that didn’t deter Mac Nagaswami from coming up with Carvertise, a marketing company that gets a brand message seen through the use of high-mileage consumer drivers who are willing to wrap their car with an ad. A grad of Sanford School and the University of Delaware, the 25-year-old CEO discusses algorithms and the sharing economy from his new headquarters in the Hercules Building.
DT: How did you come up with the idea for this business?
MN: I was sitting at a red light on Kirkwood Highway, looking at my surroundings as a bus pulled up next to me. I see the advertisement on it and think to myself, “Isn’t it fascinating that brands use buses and taxis, but they don’t use consumers’ cars?” So it all started out of curiosity. The next questions I asked myself were a series of hypotheses: If a channel was created, would brands use this channel? Would drivers be willing to put an ad on their cars? My answer to both questions was yes.
DT: So what did you do next?
MN: So when I was 21, I decided I needed to test the waters and see what people’s temperatures were on the subject. I went door to door in neighborhoods around UD’s campus, recording answers to questions on a clipboard. I probably surveyed four neighborhoods and 120 people. The results of the survey showed a positive response, so I created a website called Penguin Ads and started getting people to sign up online.
DT: Where did the term Carvertise come from?
MN: Penguin Ads was a name I threw on the business at first because I thought it was catchy, but I also didn’t know the shape of this business. I had my eye on Carvertise for quite some time, because I’m convinced using consumer car drivers will be a mainstream channel for advertising in the next 10 years just like bus advertising and billboards. I realized this industry didn’t have a name yet, so I decided that if I am going to spearhead this product and it is going to be the gold standard, it should be called carvertising.
DT: How do you gauge an ad’s views or impressions while on the road?
MN: This is the part I really enjoy because this is the science and technology of the company. We use an algorithm created by traffic engineers with the help from GPS data in every car.
DT: Who designs the decals that are used to wrap the cars?
MN: It varies. We have an in-house designer, or sometimes the client prefers to do it. It takes anywhere from one day to one week to be designed. The decals are vinyl, and we wrap cars at our shop in Edgemoor.
DT: Who are some of your clients?
MN: Discover Bank, Buffalo Wild Wings, Shop Rite, Thomas Jefferson Hospital and the state of Delaware.
DT: Who are your drivers and how many are on the road today?
MN: We currently have over 180 cars on the road. Our drivers are nurses, engineers, teachers and MBA students who share a common denominator: They are all part of a sharing economy where they are driving from point A to point B.
DT: How much do drivers make and how does one qualify?
MN: Drivers are paid $100 a month or $300-$1,200 per advertising campaign. The qualifications are similar to those for an Uber driver. You need to have a 2005 model or newer, driver’s license, registration and clean driving record, drive at least 800 miles a month and generate 90,000 impressions a month.
DT: What feedback have you been getting from your clients?
MN: Our clients are responding to the uniqueness of the channel. It’s a way for brands to speak with the community, not at the community.
DT: Did you always want to be your own boss?
MN: No. I just wanted to be happy and passionate about something. I didn’t have that mindset from the start.
DT: Is there anyone else running a similar business?
MN: There are a couple other businesses like this this in Canada, the UK and San Diego. But every week, we receive inquires from around the world from people asking us if they can open a Carvertise franchise. I’ve received inquires from Pakistan, New Zealand, China and even Thailand.