Painting the town Stytch: the making of an OOH campaign

We built Stytch on a single, fundamental truth: passwords should become a thing of the past. They’re hard to remember, easy to hack, and all too tempting to reuse across internet accounts. That’s why we make it simple for developers to add passwordless authentication to their apps and websites — unlocking better security, a better user experience, and ultimately better conversion.

It’s also why we decided to take our passwordless revolution to the streets of San Francisco.

After seeing great early feedback from customers in 2021, heading into 2022 we were ready to raise brand awareness and celebrate Stytch as a solution to the password problem. Why not launch an epic out-of-home ad campaign spanning our native city?

Below, we share how we put it all together with some amazing partners by our side — along with thousands upon thousands of handwritten sticky notes.

Go big or go home

Stytch’s OOH campaign wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without our partners at Brex. Brex’s core focus is on corporate cards and cash management, but their greater mission is to help growing companies achieve their full potential. That means offering value-added services — like their Billboard Rewards program — that help ambitious young startups amplify their message.

With Brex’s Billboard Rewards program, we put the points we earned through regular spending toward this valuable media placement and one-on-one consultations around it.

Among other perks, that included the expertise of Brex’s dedicated out-of-home media strategist, Kasper Koczab. Having launched a striking, city-wide OOH campaign for Brex, Koczab knew how to push the envelope and truly capture the public’s attention.

“We adopted a philosophy of, hey, we want to be noticed by everybody — not just decision makers, but the people they talk to,” he said. 

“We look at it almost as performance art. We’re out to buy a spectacle. We’re out to buy the city. Out-of-home is a channel where, if you do it right, you can make a splash that’s impossible to miss. With this campaign, it wasn’t just about billboards — it was about, let’s paint San Francisco Stytch.”

Koczab put together a bold, sweeping plan that included dozens of billboards, five transit shelter takeovers with first-in-market custom shadow boxes to accommodate our 3D sticky notes creative, 150 standard transit shelters, and buses that travel deep into residential areas. He advised on how to negotiate with city officials, make profitable investments, maximize the impact of every unit, and create visuals that work for pedestrians and highway drivers — in short, practices that can make or break an OOH campaign. 

Best of all, Kasper connected us with a dynamic, creative agency that instantly plugged into our vision and delivered just what we were looking for.

It’s all in the design

To develop the ad content, we turned to Division of Labor, an award-winning San Francisco agency with plenty of OOH experience and a firm grasp of the local market. It didn’t take them long to land on a compelling direction for our campaign.

“Chemistry is everything, and it felt like our working styles were very much aligned,” said Rebecca Reid, account director at Division of Labor. “When that happens, it’s like magic. Stytch’s founders have such conviction and clarity on what Stytch is as a brand and what they want to communicate, and it made our work together fly.”

“Stytch sent over a blog post titled Kill the Password — and that was really all we needed to see,” said Josh Denberg, Division of Labor’s founder and creative director. “No matter who you are or what you do for a living, you experience the same frustration with passwords. With other clients, we may have to search for a common enemy. But with passwords, it’s universal.”

Denberg and his team got right to work. With many units to play with, they weren’t afraid to push the limits, try new approaches, and strike a balance between playful and pragmatic messaging. 

“There was a lot of collaborative back-and-forth,” said Denberg. “Stytch was really open to humor, so there’s a line about how the average person resets a password more often than they have sex. But then, there’s another that speaks to how passwordless auth can increase conversions by 60%.

Overall, we wanted to explore a mix of creative copy that would speak to the pain of the password in different ways and resonate with different audiences.

All told, Division of Labor came up with four dynamic themes to fit distinct media types. Billboards featured memorable statements and statistics, while buses had long, cryptic password strings — like d0nTUh8pA55w0rD5L1kETh15? — stretched along their backs for drivers to puzzle over.

Most impressively, they covered a handful of bus shelters with tiny, handwritten sticky notes — the kind people use to write down and remember their proliferating passwords.

Brand messaging that sticks

Needless to say, the sticky note project took a huge effort, involving custom glass cases for each shelter, loads of note pads and work hours to fill them, and multiple tests to get it all right.

Division of Labor estimated they’d need a thousand sticky notes across five shelters, amounting to a grand total of 5,000 individual notes.

“No problem, right? We brought in 15 people for an afternoon session and had them design each sticky note as a little canvas,” said Denberg. “At the end, we weren’t even close. So we did it again, then again, and we were still a thousand short.”

Finally, they held a Friday evening charity session, where friends could donate $400 per finished sticky note pad to the relief efforts in Ukraine, and Stytch sent a goodie basket of food and drinks to cheer them on and fuel their creativity. By the end of the night, Division of Labor had the last batch of sticky notes they needed — and had raised over $5,000 to boot.

Koczab happened to know artist and metal worker Ron Lester from Iron Maverick, who took on the monumental task of assembling the shelter boards, layering note over note into an aesthetic, 3D sticky note sculpture. And the rest is advertising history.

A sneak peak of one of the Stytch sticky note installations being assembled.
Approximately 1,000 hand-written sticky notes cover each of five transit shelter installations.

Keeping the campaign rolling

Through the OOH ads, we established a fun, unique presence in San Francisco and beyond — and we have an incredible story behind us to propel the Stytch brand forward.

“This is a team that cares about the work they’re doing, and that was clear on day one,” said Denberg. “You don’t get that very often. After the campaign launched, everyone at Stytch embraced it and took photos with their dogs in front of it. It’s been great to see that organic push.”

As the ads were unveiled, we hired videographer Michael Shainblum to document the experience, as well as the context and culture of the surrounding neighborhoods.

With a three-man crew, he shot 10 hours of footage in just three days, including using a drone to capture the Stytch team in our offices, with sticky notes spelling “Stytch” across the windows. He edited it all down into the lively, minute-long sizzle reel featured earlier — you can also check it out here. (In case you’re wondering, the super catchy song is Sonny Cleveland’s “Don’t Stop.” You’re welcome.)

While he filmed in slow motion, Shainblum sped up his footage for the final reel, giving a sense of the fast-moving pace of the city and the sheer scale of our campaign. 

“We see so much signage day after day, and frankly most people don’t pay any attention. But this was something different, something intriguing,” he said. 

“When so many people work on a project — not just the people devising and designing the campaign, but also the people actually putting up the signs — it’s incredible to have a visual record that brings it all together and spreads the word far and wide.”

Measuring the impact

So far, we’ve seen incredible feedback, and we’re excited to see interest in our campaign and our company grow with each passing day.

The ad campaign’s success — and the greater public awareness of Stytch’s solutions — has resulted not only in an organic increase to our web traffic, branded searches, and recruiting efforts, but in a palpable boost to our team’s morale and enthusiasm.

In the end, it’s not just the dislike of passwords that connects us, but the power and promise of a passwordless future.

Go passwordless

Want to see for yourself what all the hype’s about?

Jump into our docs to check out Stytch’s flexible, frictionless, and fully passwordless authentication solutions — or open a free account, and try them out for yourself.

Get started