Dubbed “the tech industry’s thoroughfare” by out-of-home ad company Outfront Media, California’s Highway 101 runs through the heart of Silicon Valley, passing by the global headquarters of tech giants like Google and Facebook, as well a host of smaller tech firms.
That stretch of road is the site of a new ad campaign created by Toronto’s Agency59 for Path to Canada, a Canadian company launched by a former Silicon Valley veteran named Marc Pavlopoulos committed to solving “the Canadian tech talent shortage.”
In key locations throughout Silicon Valley, the campaign’s 10 billboards are deliberately low-tech, with a simple message in black type on a white background: “Can a billboard change your life?” They display a link to the website H1BFatigue.com, which explains how Path to Canada can help turn workers’ U.S. visa problems into a “Canadian dream job.”
Each year, hundreds of thousands of foreign workers in the U.S. apply for their H-1B work visa, which is granted to people in a range of professions, including the most in-demand technology workers Canada is hoping to attract.
US Citizenship and Immigration approved only 127,600 of the 483,927 H-1B applications for fiscal 2023, and 87,500 of 308,613 registrations in fiscal 2022. While H-1B approval rates have increased since Donald Trump left office, Path to Canada is targeting those people no longer able to stay in the country because of work or visa issues.
According to Immigration.ca, Canadian tech companies are eagerly seeking out workers thanks to a massive boost in venture capital, and with employment in the tech sector being boosted by Global Talent Stream—a fast-track work visa program designed to process 80% of applications within two weeks or less.
“They’re new to advertising, but they knew they needed to make some noise in Silicon Valley,” said Agency59’s chief creative officer Brian Howlett of the campaign. He described the billboards as “intentionally basic,” specifically designed to look and feel as if they were designed by a local, grassroots organization.
“We’re really targeting people who have lost the lottery, or may not get [approved] next year and they’re gonna spend the next 12 months worrying,” he said. “It’s an old-school, traditional out-of-home campaign.”
The campaign is running through May, with media handled by Agency59.