Drive-by jargon: Decoding Silicon Valley's puzzling tech billboards

SCOTT SHAFER, KQED: For some, landing in Silicon Valley is like arriving in Shangri-la — the place that Apple, Facebook and Google call home. But even in paradise, there's traffic.

RADIO TRAFFIC REPORT: Heading in a northbound direction break lights…

SCOTT SHAFER, KQED: The commute along this 49-mile stretch of freeway between San Francisco and San Jose can take a couple of hours.

Drivers have plenty of time to stare out their windows at the seemingly endless stream of ads for tech companies. Some billboards promote the familiar, but others seem to require a translator.

Stanford University marketing professor Pedro Gardete says the billboards use a private language aimed at the tech set.

STANFORD UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR PEDRO GARDETE: These billboards are different than anything we have seen before. These companies have found a way to do it, putting up some riddles in a sense, saying this ad is you. And it really makes sense in the micro-climate we live in.

SCOTT SHAFER, KQED: Among those driving by are some of the biggest names in venture capital and high tech.

STANFORD UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR PEDRO GARDETE: One of the major strategies when you build a new startup is to get bought. So there is nothing like getting awareness to get people to consider you for a purchase.

SCOTT SHAFER, KQED: Natasha Raja created the much buzzed about billboards for the tech recruiting firm, Dice. The ads feature real engineers in their underwear. A commuter herself, Raja thought drivers would appreciate some humor.

NATASHA RAJA, DICE: You want to put a smile on people's face, but you also want people to pay attention. We wanted to make sure it was funny.

SCOTT SHAFER, KQED: Since it put up the ads, Dice says it got a big boost in calls for its services. Using an old-school technique to promote high-tech firms may seem counterintuitive, but if the ads work, expect to see more of them.