Robot Automation in OOH

Robots won’t replace Out-of-Home sales teams – but they will make them better

For many, automation, algorithms and AI conjure images of a future where humans are dispensed with and robotic beings rule the world.

But when we set Hollywood, headlines and the predictions of the third most popular folk comedy duo Flight of the Conchords aside, we see automation for what it really is. A powerful tool that can transform the way we work for the better. Automation fast-forwards the passage of time to complete monotonous or repetitive tasks with no risk of human error. In the workplace, this frees teams to focus on more important tasks requiring human perception and skill.

Robot Automation in OOH

Out-of-Home is no stranger to the automation conversation. The rise and rise of digital (now accounting for 50% of UK OOH and 28% in the US) has brought about an explosion of software companies – including us! – offering opportunities to automate exchanges between buyer and media owner.

For some Out-of-Home sales teams, this is sounding an alarm. But far from coming for their jobs, automation offers the toolkit they’ll need to tackle new challenges and chase opportunities in the modern world of Digital Out-of-Home (DOOH) – of which there are many. Read on to see where the opportunities lie.

Automation will help sales teams process complex, granular DOOH bookings

The way DOOH is bought and sold is changing. Advertisers are demanding more targeted, data-driven and efficient placement of campaigns. In response, specialists, buyers and media owners are working double-time to offer granular, flexible bookings that hit the advertiser’s mark.

This shift towards granular buying has the potential to increase the number of line items your sales team will process by 8000%. That’s before we get into the many availability checks that precede said booking. Add day parts, automated guaranteed and flexible bookings into the equation and the number of potential lines to process becomes, well, infinite.

In this scenario, automation is not just advantageous, it’s necessary. Out-of-Home media sales teams are a vital resource with unique and valuable skill sets critical to the success of your business. But ask them to process that number of bookings manually and you’ll watch those skills drown in a sea of paperwork.

Automation maximises DOOH occupancy

Traditionally, the way DOOH is bought and sold leaves room for waste. And where there is waste, there is opportunity. Automation allows sales teams to offer flexible, granular booking periods that cater to the diverse range of advertiser needs and budgets. Individual spaces now have greater value than when they’re sold as part of a generic pack. This makes for a far more compelling sales proposition for your team!

For big brands, this means national campaigns with granular targeting. For smaller advertisers, they can now target specific local sites within periods that fit their budget. With the ability to better mix large and small campaigns your sales team can increase overall occupancy and bring in more revenue.

Automation increases speed and efficiency

Within every sales team, there are repetitive tasks that need to be completed regularly. This is prime territory for Out-of-Home automation as it can complete these tasks more quickly, efficiently and with no human error. 

Connecting your Out-of-Home inventory with buyers and automating availability checks and reservations ensures they’re processed instantly. This means striking while the iron is hot – even outside of working hours. Letting your team get on with nurturing relationships, hitting targets and closing deals!

What’s next for Out-of-Home?

These are just some of the things you can achieve right now through automation. Automating now will pave the way for further developments as the technology and systems progress. From optimisation to programmatic buying, automation is the first step.

Sound interesting?

If automation sounds like a tool your sales team could use, explore more here or get in touch. As a technology partner for Out-of-Home media owners, we’re here to help.

While your predictions may be wrong, Flight of the Conchords, you’re still our favourite folk comedy duo.

Primesight's new Inlink offering reaches far and wide

Consolidation of OOH can simplify. But so can tech

This week’s news that our friends Primesight and Outdoor Plus have been bought by Global Media and Entertainment to form Global Outdoor comes after much talk of consolidation of OOH. This, of course, follows Ocean Outdoor’s acquisition of Forest earlier in the year.

The advantages are clear. Consolidation of OOH media owners gives them more ammunition in the fight against other mediums for the advertiser’s purse. While for agencies, fewer owners – with larger individual inventory – makes for a far simpler and more enticing buying proposition.

Consolidation also helps in the quest for truly automated trading. The OOH ecosystem is a highly diverse and intensely fragmented one. Each media owner and agency is pushing their own automation solutions, while new platforms pop up on both the demand and sell sides offering different ways to solve the problem.

Consolidation of OOH means buyers can access Primesight's far reaching inventory and Outdoor Plus' premium site Cheyne Walk

Image via Outdoor Plus

The result is a myriad of different platforms that do not seamlessly integrate or connect. They all speak different technological languages, call things different names (you say panel, I say frame) and this is even before they change and evolve according to their own priorities.

In the end, the connections are possible but in a fragmented market, those connections are hugely time consuming and expensive to set-up and maintain.

So, industry-wide consolidation is one way of simplifying the market. In this week’s example, buyers can now make one simple connection with Global Outdoor and take advantage of Primesight’s broad range of inventory across the country, while leveraging Outdoor Plus’ premium London based sites.

But there is also a way to reap the many of the benefits of consolidation, without the need to sign your commercials into the hands of someone else.

Consolidation of OOH means buyers can access Primesight's far reaching inventory

Image via Primesight

By employing a technology partner, you can do away with the complexity of making multiple unique connections. Once you’ve agreed on the commercials, you can deploy software that not only creates seamless connectivity with your buyer but acts as a pass-through, translating requests on your behalf, and delivering them to your existing systems. Better yet, not only does the software handle these existing requests, but it also manages future changes in the way your buyers make them.

It takes a lot of resources to create and handle these connections. Consolidation of OOH is one way we can, as an industry, simplify to connect and automate. But technology is another and has the added bonus of making your life easier and your business more attractive. So, if you’d rather hang onto commercial control, software that eliminates complexity in your connections, future-proof your business and prevents a headache is nearly here. Get in touch or watch this space for details.

Signkick cofounders including Andy Hamblin

Andy Hamblin named part of Signkick founding team

Originally founded by Tobias van Amstel, Sebastiaan Schinkel and Sebastiaan Heijne out of a London flat, Signkick began with a clear mission: to make out-of-home media easier to buy.

Since then, Signkick has grown and evolved to better serve this mission and become a key player in D/OOH software. Helping media owners such as Primesight and JC Decaux Belgium become more automated and connected.

Today, we are pleased to acknowledge an important part of this evolution: the contribution of our chief commercial officer, Andy Hamblin, who is today to join the original three as a co-founder of Signkick.

Signkick cofounders including Andy Hamblin

Signkick founding team (from left) Tobias van Amstel, Andy Hamblin and Sebastian Schinkel. Photo by Prisca Visser

His involvement began in 2014 with an email from a friend, who connected Andy’s wealth of media experience with Tobias.

Having worked in the media business for over 15 years, for companies such as JC Decaux and Posterscope, Andy has been instrumental in the inception of the software business. He brings an understanding of the challenges facing the OOH industry and has helped shape Signkick’s offering to best serve media owners.

“We are thrilled to recognise Andy as a co-founder. It’s safe to say we wouldn’t be where we are today without his contribution. It’s an exciting step forward as we continue to grow.” Tobias van Amstel.

Find out more about Signkick’s management team here.

Mt Vesuvius Sorrento

FEPE posed the questions; software holds the answers

As we settle back into post-FEPE life at our desks, we’ve been reflecting on the many questions raised at this year’s annual congress in Sorrento.

It seems the end goal is clear. As an industry, we need to make OOH easier to plan and buy in order to keep up with the rise and rise of online and mobile advertising.

But how we actually go about reaching that end goal and making a complex medium such as D/OOH automated and simple to buy was not really answered, and remains foggy at best.

FEPE Sorrento

We founded Signkick with a clear mission: to help media owners make their inventory easy for advertisers to buy, and easy for them to sell. We’re not just here to sell you our software (although in all honesty that’s what we’d like to do!),  we’re here, with a wealth of experience in both camps, to help translate technology to the media world.

For many OOH media owners, entering the world of automation looks scary and expensive. Technology has a track record of fragmenting audiences and fractionalising revenue in other advertising channels. But as PJ Soloman’s Mark Boidman rightly pointed out, “Technology is not a friend to any classic media channel, except for OOH

In Mediatel’s insightful article Dominic Mills explains that “OOH is a totally unique medium, immune to the negative impacts of tech on advertising – fraud, viewability, ad blocking – but derives positive benefits from digitisation in terms of inventory growth, multiplied (as opposed to fractionalised) revenue opportunities, better data than before, better targeting and so on. At the same time, unrelated to tech but thanks to growing urbanisation, audiences are increasing.” So as he says “What’s not to like?”

So we get the need to embrace technology and jump on into the automation race. But how do you actually do that? Well, we see two clear options.

Option 1: Invest the time and resources to build your own automation technology

Given the time, expertise and budgets required to do this successfully, this is really only an option for the big players, and many are already making strides towards it.

Option 2: Take FEPE’s advice and collaborate – with an existing software provider

This approach can work for anyone but is a particularly good approach for smaller media owners. Partnering with a software company to transition to automated trading is like recruiting a fully trained, tech team who have spent the time developing and testing your new automation software.

But like recruiting a new team member, it’s imperative to ensure they are the right fit and have your business’s best interests at heart. As the recruiter, you need to have a clear handle on the skills you already possess and the problems you are looking to solve through tech and why. If you’re not sure, starting a conversation with a software provider early can help pose these questions, bringing challenges and opportunities to the surface.

Just like potential recruits, tech companies have different strengths, and most won’t do everything as a one-stop-shop. If they say they can, it’s probably time to ask a few more questions. We believe that collaboration should be the modus operandi of software companies as well as media companies. So talk to providers that answer different parts of the jigsaw: creative execution, delivery, client management, online sales, automated transactions, programmatic trading. Many, like Signkick, operate their software on a modular basis, meaning you can start small and find a combination that answers your most pressing needs first, then evolves and grows as your needs do too.

With experienced media folk at the helm at Signkick, we’ve been around the OOH business long enough to know that tech isn’t the golden ticket. To thrive in the coming years, media owners will still need exceptional sales teams, a good product and a definable audience. But by collaborating with a tech partner now, not only do media owners have an opportunity to use automation to become more efficient, open up new markets and operate automated transactions, but to establish a collaboration that will give them a leg up on technology advancements into the future.

FEPE OOH Conference Tom Goddard

Collaborate and Automate: FEPE International’s 59th Annual Congress

The Sorrento sun was shining on the OOH industry as the 59th annual FEPE International Congress kicked off last week. With over 400 delegates from 40 countries, it was a truly international affair, with updates on a thriving OOH industry in Latin American, China, the USA, Japan and closer to home in Europe and the UK. As we settled in to discuss how we might, as an industry, “frame our future” some common threads quickly appeared.

Tom Goddard, FEPE President and Ocean Outdoor Chairman set the tone, calling on the industry to collaborate in order to frame a prosperous future for OOH. Annie Rickard, former President of Posterscope, commanded the audience reiterating that “now’s the time to put collaboration ahead of the competition.”

Collaborate and Automate

Rickard went on to the hot topic of automation and ‘the P word’ stating we must “automate to survive” and that automation was “an important topic worthy of discussion at this conference”.

And it certainly was discussed. Many speakers echoed this call to the industry to automate and make OOH easier to buy, including Nick Parker, Global COO, Kinetic “in a year’s time the industry must have a better way of working. And that must include automation”

PJ Soloman’s Mark Boidman rightly pointed out that “just as investment money goes where the returns are best, so buyers will put their money where it is easy to buy. If you can buy video, mobile or publishers so easily, why take the extra hassle of buying OOH?”

By the end of the first day of FEPE, it was abundantly clear that the industry needs to pull together to make OOH as easy for advertisers to buy as mobile or online.

Meeting with Fepe delegates at the Signkick Stand

But how do we collaborate?

Sitting firmly on the side of media owners, and hearing the reservations they have in the race to automate, we wonder whether there is a way to collaborate that doesn’t mean the must amalgamate.

It’s a well-known fact that using technology within a business helps to simplify processes to increase efficiency, automates menial tasks to allow for growth and innovation and helps standardise procedures to create collaborative, connected teams.

So what if this same approach could be applied to an entire industry?

Using an off the shelf technology or software solution means you can stay independent, and retain full control over the way your inventory is sold. But it also means you operate a universally user-friendly platform that connects seamlessly with other platforms as well as to other companies with the OOH industry and beyond.

Science and Technology Journalist Gemma Milne was a bit of a wildcard for many at this year’s FEPE conference. However, she made an interesting point about the high expectations coming generations of buyers hold for the usability of technology “If it works well, we’ll become evangelists, if it doesn’t, we won’t hesitate to go elsewhere.”

This reflects the sentiment of the OAAA/Geopath conference held in Austin in May, where Nancy Fletcher, OAAA President also made a call for industry collaboration saying that “collaboration and partnerships will expedite the challenges the industry is facing and make them less costly in the long run.”

At Signkick, we believe the imperative set by FEPE is clear. We must make strides toward automation. But rather than each developing individual systems in silos, we must find a way to collaborate as an industry. Technology isn’t necessarily the golden ticket, but there is an opportunity to use it to deliver different elements of the automation jigsaw and navigate an industry-wide route to automation that is collaborative and seamlessly connected. Only once we achieve this will we be able to take back from the pots of other advertising mediums, and in the words of Annie Rickard focus on “making our medium famous again.”

Signkick team at FEPE Sorrento


Signkick Drop Pin Logo

Signkick Announces Brand Split

Since 2012, Signkick has been on a mission to make the planning and purchase of Out Of Home advertising simpler, more automated and connected.

We are pleased to announce the next step in this journey, which will enable us to achieve this mission better than ever before. As of today, the company will be divided into two entities – Signkick and Bubble Outdoor.

The rapidly expanding SaaS software side of the business, formerly SignkickTech, will take the name and brand forward. While the online OOH media sales platform, formerly known as Signkick, will be rebranded as Bubble Outdoor.

Signkick Branding Simplify Automate Connect

Signkick will be headquartered in Bristol, UK, with a development office in Amsterdam, and concentrate on delivering software for media owners, led by and CEO Tobias van Amstel with support from CTO Sebastiaan Schinkel and CCO Andy Hamblin.

“It has become increasingly obvious, through our conversations with media owners, that there is a real demand for high-quality, self-branded software, that automates the planning, purchase and delivery of their OOH offering.” Andrew Hamblin.

Signkick’s flexible, cloud-based SaaS products are created exclusively for media owners, helping them to make the planning, purchase and execution of their OOH advertising spaces simpler, more automated and connected.

Bubble Outdoor will operate the online platform at, enabling live automatic trading for businesses and individuals searching, planning and purchasing OOH advertising.

Bubble Outdoor will continue with guidance from industry stalwart Nick Jarman (founder of Talon Outdoor) and an experienced media team including Matt Stubbings (formerly Kinetic WW, Primesight and Posterscope) and Louise Chick (formerly Rapport).

“Bubble’s new look signals big plans for the future, including broadening the choice of posters available and offering new ways to target audiences.” Matt Stubbings, Bubble Outdoor

“With both Signkick and Bubble Outdoor growing at pace, we believe that splitting the company will ensure we deliver on their potential in a way that best serves our customers. We are very excited about their futures”  Tobias van Amstel, Signkick.

For more information about Signkick visit

For more information about Bubble Outdoor visit

Signkick GDPR

What is GDPR and how will it affect small businesses?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), comes into effect on 25 May 2018 and represents an unprecedented shakeup in data protection laws across Europe and the UK. It has major ramifications for how businesses collect and store data, regardless of the outcome of Brexit.

The outcry over the revelation that Cambridge Analytica was exploiting the private data of Facebook users demonstrates that the world has become alert to the ways in which personal data can be used and abused. It marks a watershed after which data protection will no longer be taken likely or be seen as a mere tick-box exercise.

Image showing close up of a security camera

What is the GDPR?

Although the GDPR contains an incredibly technical range of stipulations regarding how organisations and companies should approach data protection, it also has a fairly straightforward philosophy underpinning it. This philosophy can be summed up in two words: informed consent.

Data subjects can no longer be tricked into consent agreements smuggled into Ts & Cs, nor can consent be a condition for signing up to any service; they have to sign an explicit privacy notice that must be clearly and plainly stated.

Data subjects also need to fully understand the ways in which their data will be stored and processed, in accordance with this simple edict: if they don’t understand what you intend to do with their data, you aren’t allowed to do it. It’s as simple as that.

Will Brexit effect the GDPR?

In a word, no. Although the GDPR is an EU legislation, two crucial factors need to be taken into account:

1. The GDPR’s stipulations apply to any company handling the data of EU citizens, regardless of whereabouts in the world they are.

2. The main plank of GDPR has already been incorporated to the UK’s Data Protection Bill, which is soon to come into law.

How will the GDPR affect small businesses?

There’s some confusion as to exactly how the GDPR will affect small businesses.

There are lots of detailed requirements for organisations with over 250 staff (like appointing a data protection officer and publishing the details of 3rd party data processors), but that doesn’t mean small businesses are off the hook.

If you only occasionally process personal data, you aren’t bound by the GDPR unless the data you handle is considered “sensitive personal data”, such as data about political views and religious beliefs, membership of trade unions, sexual orientation, race, and ethnic origin, as well as any biometric or genetic data.

So, if you regularly process personal data or collect any sensitive data you should comply with the GDPR.

As a small business, you don’t have to appoint a data protection officer or publish details of any data processors you work with, but you do still need to ensure that you gain informed consent from all data subjects and that they are aware of how you will use their data.

This consent also needs to be verified; so you must keep written records of when, where and how you gained consent. If you, for example, use a data capture service like MailChimp, it will automatically generate reports that detail how people opted-in to your database. It’s important that you speak to the relevant teams handling data in any capacity, either within or on behalf of your company. Make sure they are informed about the GDPR and are complying as per their obligations. If not, heavy fines could result.

What does the GDPR mean for marketers?

Marketers will, of course, want to make sure they are GDPR compliant, as collecting and handling personal data is their lifeblood. From now on you will need to factor GDPR guidelines into your marketing strategies from the ground up. This is called “privacy by design”.

Opt-in consent

Speaking of opting in, all consent must be gained by positive, opt-in methods; so you’re not allowed to use pre-ticked opt-in buttons on a signup form, for example.

You need to inform data subjects:

How you will be using their data and who you’ll be sharing it with

How long you will store their data for

They can request their data be deleted or amended at any time

They can request their data be sent to them in a transferable format (“data portability“)

GDPR privacy notices

For small businesses, the lynchpin of your data protection strategy will be your privacy notice. We’re all familiar with long-winded terms and conditions, and the fact that no one ever reads them. Facebook famously published a privacy policy longer than the US constitution. Well, this is one of the major changes the GDPR aims to bring about. Privacy notices must be as concise, clear, and readable as possible so as to ensure data subjects are aware of exactly what their data is being used for and what their rights are.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has a very handy PDF guide offering good and bad examples of privacy notices that is definitely worth taking a look at.

The ICO has a lot more information on how to get your business ready for the GDPR when it kicks in on 25 May, including a GDPR FAQ document and self-help checklist, as well as a helpline number for small businesses.

Signkick Blog

News from the 2017 DOOH Upfronts

This year’s Internet Advertising Bureaux Upfronts saw the annual digital media showcase bring together a wide range of brands and participants discussing the possibilities open to advertisers and agencies in a rapidly changing digital landscape.

Speakers addressed a range of topics such as the rise of Digital out of home advertising, the need for industry-wide advertising standards, and changing audience engagement.

news from DOOH 2017 upfronts

JCDecaux and OOH: Outdoor is “the best of both worlds”

Marketing expert Mark Ritson said that Outdoor’s intersection with Digital offered exciting possibilities. and underscored Mark Zuckerberg’s belief that contemporary advertising is about “having a conversation’ with audiences, rather than pushing information towards them. He believes that Digital out-of-home (DOOH) can avoid some of the pitfalls of Digital such as brand safety and that the medium could be “the best of both worlds”.

Other speakers discussed the need to focus on brand building without sacrificing sales activation and the possibilities now that video has been introduced to DOOH. But the big news was JCDecaux’s launch of a new brand charter called “BranDO”. The charter is aimed at shoring up trust in brands and represents a new benchmark in DOOH quality standards. This represents an acknowledgment that the industry is moving towards greater automation and that there is a growing need for consistent values across increasingly integrated advertising networks.

JCDecaux’s Les Binet made the point that the Digital revolution is not replacing other media, it is in fact enhancing it; with “digital support” making OOH 60% more effective.

Binet also argued that “broad reach” is still more effective than targeted campaigns. This is a useful reminder of the impact of out-of-home advertising which is characterised by its wide reach. This is backed up by the spectacular rise of DOOH which has grown by 30% in the past year.

Metrics that matter

A comScore panel talked about the complexities of advertising metrics and how to find “metrics that matter”. This means measuring advertising reach across a range of platforms. This is particularly important because the UK is now a “multi-platform market”. For more on getting to grips with metrics in out-of-home advertising, check out our recent blog post on the topic.

Another big topic was the rise of Mobile. Mobile access to the internet is now at 48% in the UK, but only 38% of digital ad spend is dedicated to it. Not only that, but Mobile use encourages “ephemeral content sharing” via platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. This is part of an ad environment in which audiences are wary of the hard-sell, favouring instead “ambient discovery” where they happen across brand messages in a saturated media environment that’s no longer centred around The News at Ten and Saturday shopping.

Amazon want your ads

Amazon held a closed session in a bid to draw in more of UK ad budgets. They are a “sleeping giant in online media” who are currently in the process of playing catch-up to Google and Facebook. Small businesses may well want to investigate advertising on the platform which is less saturated with ads than the Google/Facebook “duopoly”.

Digital Signage Week Logo

5 things to take away from DSE 2017

The annual Digital Signage Expo (DSE) is the world’s biggest and longest-running showcase of innovative digital communications and interactive tech.

We bring you 5 key highlights from the #DSE2017 gathering in the stunning Las Vegas Convention Centre.

The industry can speak with one voice

One major headline to emerge from DSE2017 was the announcement that a global digital out-of-home council has been established with a mission statement to support “the intersection between out-of-home advertising and the digital signage industry.”

The establishment of a global digital out-of-home council will surely only benefit innovations and standards in a crowded international market.

As the world of digital out-of-home (DOOH) continues to enjoy growth, and becomes increasingly interconnected, it’s excellent news that the industry now has the potential to speak with one voice.

The industry is at a creative high

With arcade machine-style booths projecting floating interactive holograms, and snooker tables tracking the movement of balls, the DSE was both a show of advances in interactive digital tech, and a display of the creative energy the industry is capable of.

Interactive signage tech is on the up and up

Although the aforementioned items may not have an obvious ROI use right now, there were certainly more, let’s say… practical, interactive tech innovations like the Pilkington MirrorView. This clever touch screen mirror can be used to map digital images of fashion items onto the user’s reflection without the need for lengthy visits to the changing rooms. Pretty neat.

Retail signage is getting a digital boost

We’re also pretty excited about a transparent store front digital poster from ADTI media. This is a great innovation that lets retail outlets display marketing messages on their store fronts whilst enabling consumers to engage in some good old-fashioned window shopping.

Also on offer from the ADTI booth was a new fan-less SKYWIND LED sign, with a lighter, aerodynamic, sign that uses wind flow as a coolant, reducing wind resistance by 33%.

For fast food retailers, Armagard presented an impressive drive-thru menu system with an interactive, 49″ display, that can be networked via Wi-Fi or Ethernet cable, and pushes out an impressive maximum brightness of 3000 nits. Armagard claims the unit, which works straight out of the box and is weather and impact resistant, can drive a potential 8% increase in fast food sales.

APEX Award Winners highlighted the bright future of digital signage

Every year at DSE the APEX Installation of the Year winners are announced. This year’s top honours went to Razorfish for their T-Mobile Times Square store, an immersive digital experience with dazzling features like a 13-foot multi-touch wall from which shoppers can beam selfies to the huge storefront display screens that look out across Times Square.

Follow the #DSE2017 tag on Twitter for more on this year’s expo and find out about next year’s Digital Signage Expo on the DSE website.

Sebastiaan Heijne

Sebastiaan Heijne Leaves Signkick

After four fantastic years at Signkick, this month, Sebastiaan Heijne has decided to move on to take up new challenges. Sebastiaan has provided energy and expertise during the formative stages of the company which continues to go from strength to strength. He will be continuing to support Signkick as a shareholder and advisor. We wish him all the best in his future endeavours.

Read more about the Signkick management team here.