surge may have stalled, but some investors are trying to keep enthusiasm going in a new venue: highway billboards.
The now-famous WallStreetBets cartoon mascot, with his black shades and slicked-back hair, recently stretched his arms above the morning commuters on highway I-694 near Minneapolis and proposed “$GME to the moon!” GME is GameStop’s stock ticker.
The electronic advertisement, featuring rocket emojis, is just one of more than 300,000 ads purchased across at least 30 states by people drawing inspiration from the WallStreetBets subreddit, said Kurt Tingey, senior vice president of business development for Blip Billboards.
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Blip offers users brief showings of their ad for a flexible price that can be as low as 1 cent for an eight-second time slot. Demand from individual investors has driven Blip’s comparably inexpensive billboard ads up to 20 times its usual rate since Jan. 30, Mr. Tingey said, with a meme-stocks-related ad appearing every 2.5 seconds on its billboards nationwide.
“When this hit, it was over the weekend and, man, our website traffic just went nuts, with a 1,900% increase in traffic to that site,” he said. “They just blew it up.”
The billboards mark an extension of the online frenzy that in late January lifted GameStop shares to records, then sent them plunging. Individual investors, led by enthusiasts in forums like Reddit’s WallStreetBets, have spurred big swings in shares of a series of struggling companies, including the videogame retailer, and movie chain
AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc.
GameStop shares have fallen around 21% this week through Tuesday to $50.31 and are well below their recent closing peak of $347.51 hit Jan. 27. They started the year below $20.
Tanner Berris, a special-education teacher who bought the Minneapolis ad, said he’s followed WallStreetBets for years and believes so strongly in GameStop that he’d hold the stock even if it wasn’t an internet trend. He said billboards aren’t meant to be serious financial advice, even saying so on the sign he purchased: “This is not financial advice. Don’t take advice from billboards.”
The billboards aren’t limited to GameStop.
Kory Keller, a Florida health care administration worker, bought 44 billboards last week to support the meme-inspired cryptocurrency dogecoin. He ended up paying $360 for around 19,000 brief spots on billboards in eight states, including California, Arizona and Texas. The ads were mostly just for fun: He said he’s proud of online comments from people saying the ads made them laugh.
Keller said he hopes to recoup his outlay on billboards through his dogecoin profits. He holds what he estimates is about the equivalent of a down payment on a Toyota Corolla—or a few thousand dollars—in the virtual currency.
“I just think they look ridiculous in plain sight, out in public,” he said of the billboards.
Write to Marco Quiroz-Gutierrez at Marco.Quiroz-Gutierrez@wsj.com
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