But it took some time for Volta to build his stations and thus his inventory network.
Volta has grown from 125 charging stations in 2016 to over 2,500 stations today. When Volta started, it only offered a static view. Now, each charging station is equipped with two digital screens and has 100% inventory available programmatically.
Even with the sales side of his home in order, however, Volta had to wait for the buying side to mature and settle for new standards of accountability before his ad platform opportunities could mature.
Although Volta Media, as Volta’s advertising division is called, does not disclose its ad revenue, it all falls into the Digital Out-of-home (DOOH) category since it is fully programmatic.
“Programmatic is of great help because the biggest pushback we’d get at first – and still get – is on a massive scale,” Schott said.
Volta may have thousands of screens across the country, but the largest DOOH media companies have thousands of screens in one big city.
“What programmatic allows buyers to do is seamlessly incorporate Volta into the story to reach the right audience, without Volta having to bear the burden of the scales,” he said.
To date, Volta’s advertising activity has primarily focused on obvious endemic brands, such as car manufacturers, any company that touches electric vehicles, or brands with a message about sustainability.
Does this make sense. After all, Volta is an electric vehicle charging station company. But to reach its next stage of growth, Volta Media needs to expand into new categories.
Some performance marketers, such as Uber and Postmates, have had success with Volta, said Brittany Eckett, director of investment for WPP Kinetic-owned OOH agency.
Electric vehicle or sustainability brands get a “halo” effect from associating with EV charging station inventory, he said, but more advanced brands with their own apps see DOOH ads as a performance channel. A QR code that appears on a screen while someone is loading their car, for example, could be used to instantly zip that person to an app download page.
Another exciting creative opportunity comes from the food, beverage and home brands found in grocery stores or gas stations, Eckett said. Many Volta charging stations are located right outside the shops. The company has partnerships with numerous property owners, including Kohl’s, Stop & Shop, and Giant Foods.
A CPG brand may use QR codes or email-based offers that provide a coupon for products transported to a nearby location.
Last month, Volta unveiled its first retail multimedia product, taking a step forward in advertising for the CPG, grocery and convenience store brand. Volta can now offer inventory that appears only on screens in specific parking lots or near other properties owned by drugstores, pharmacies and related stores. Ads can also be geolocated to appear on Volta screens near stores known to carry a particular product.
“I believe the CPG will be on par with automotive in terms of endemic categories,” said Schott.
With sufficient scale around specific stores, Volta can partner with retail data companies such as Catalina or Quotient to attribute incremental sales to DOOH campaigns.
“The way to win at CPG is to measure high exposure to incremental buying and selling,” he said.
Earlier this week, Volta announced its first retail attribution partnership with Catalina.
But although Volta is honing its field to CPG brands, it also has an attractive offering for reseller customers. These relationships are critical because shops and property owners are the ones who agree to install Volta stations in their parking lots.
Volta now offers its retail partners a portion of its inventory to extend the reach of a store’s programmatic platform, now that most major grocery chains also operate their own advertising platform.
“This is a conversation we have at the tip of our spear,” Schott said. “It’s not just the electric vehicle conversation that we’re contributing a valuable and differentiated screen to the retail media network car that’s already rolling their way.”