Is automated trading a risk to your Rate Card?

The Rate Card has formed an integral part of the Out-of-Home landscape since the very first billboard was sold. As defined by 2019 DOOH Glossary of Terms, a Rate Card is “a document provided by a media owner/publisher with its rates for advertising. It may also detail any deadlines, demographics, policies, additional fees and artwork specifications.”

But as we all know, Rate Cards are usually used less as a hard and fast rule book, and more as the starting point of a conversation and relationship between a buyer and seller. In the traditional way of selling Out-of-Home media, a media owner sales representative then has an opportunity to offer discounts or bespoke conditions depending on the buyer. And of course, this offers the buyer an opportunity to negotiate in return.

With the digitisation of OOH inventory and advancements in Adtech, media owners are now gaining access to the opportunities that have been tantalisingly close for so long. Connecting with automated and programmatic buyers, in particular, hold the promise of new revenue streams, big advancements in speed and efficiency and more flexible ways to buy.

What’s the risk?

Like any great opportunity, connecting with automated buyers is not completely without risk. Yes, allowing buyers to access live avails and the ability to purchase more granular campaigns is going to reward media owners. However, without that experienced media exec in between, there is a potential risk to your traditional Rate Card.

The same as any good negotiator, a buyer’s automated system is wired to seek out opportunities and loopholes for discounts. Sometimes they’ll find them where a media owner might not be willing to offer them. But, unlike a human negotiator, it will do this faster than you can say automation, giving media owners very little opportunity to react.

But, never fear, as there’s a solution that means you can have your cake and eat it too.

Restructure your Rate Card

Before you connect with automated systems, all you need to do is ensure your Rate Card is structured to handle the modern world of OOH trading. That way you can make the most of all that automated trading offers with the peace of mind that your commercials are protected. Given every media owner and buyer is different, this will probably be unique to you. At least, that’s been our experience.

For example, one of the big benefits of DOOH is the ability to sell more flexibly. Pricing your Rate Card by the hour (or a similar time-block) rather than the traditional fortnight or four-week period, not only allows you to sell more flexibly, but also lets you set a price that accurately reflects the value of that space. For example, you might have an advertiser who is, say, only interested in hitting hungry workers looking for lunch at 1pm on a busy High Street. This peak lunchtime slot could be priced higher than, say, the same panel at 10am on a Tuesday. The buyer is happy as they’ve been able to select the exact times they’re after, with less waste. And the seller is happy as they’ve sold the space for a price that reflects it’s actual worth.

But perhaps most importantly as we make the transition to automated buying, structuring your Rate Card this way protects media owners from automated buyers looking for and finding loopholes. For example, a buyer unlocking a weekly discount for purchasing one hour per day for a whole week! On the flip side, buyers are given more flexible incentives for gaining true discounts, such as purchasing enough one-hour slots over a longer period to access the weekly discount.

So automated trading does run a risk to the traditional Rate Card. But if media owners are clever and invest a bit of time to evolve their Rate Card structure, it has the potential to open up opportunities and make the medium more accessible and appealing to all advertisers and buyers.

For more information and advice on preparing your OOH business for automated trading, get in touch.

Girl using Signkick Trading Bridge Connectivity plus

How an Inventory Management System will help media owners unlock OOH’s full potential

As our businesses grow, we update and adapt. More orders? More employees. More employees? Bigger office. In the business of Out-of-Home, the same rules apply to media owners. More panels? Bigger sales team and of course ever-growing spreadsheets.

For larger media owners, with a large number of panels, an Inventory Management System is a no brainer. Having a centralised, purpose-built system for checking live availability, placing orders and managing campaigns is well-worth the investment.

But for smaller media owners, with a steady number of sites, you’re probably just fine managing your inventory on a spreadsheet. As the old saying goes “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Right?

Maybe… except there’s another force set to bring complexity to your spreadsheets quicker than you can say out-of-home. The digitisation of panels and demand from advertisers for more targeted, granular purchasing.

Girl using Signkick Trading Bridge Connectivity plus

Thanks to significant investment by OOH media owners, DOOH now makes up over 50% of all OOH in the UK and 28% in the US. This digital transformation has been a powerful driver of growth helping the UK OOH industry to rise by 7.3% in Q3 2018. Predictions are for this trend to continue and, as PWC stated in a recent report, “DOOH is bringing with it profound changes to the market as the buying, selling and displaying of the OOH industry is overhauled.”

One of these transformations is in the way DOOH allows buyers to purchase more granular campaigns. This lets them combine DOOH’s strengths as an unskippable, brand-safe, broadcast medium, with the world of online data and metrics. Buying in 8 – 10-second slots mean they can place more precise, targeted and context relevant DOOH ads than ever before.

When it comes to your sales spreadsheet, replacing a paper poster with a digital screen isn’t a one-for-one swap.

What’s the impact of granular buying on media owners?

For media owners, this shift makes for an extremely compelling sales proposition, but an increasingly complex administrative exercise.

For example, one traditional poster sold in the UK’s typical two week booking period has a maximum of 26 potential bookings a year. In the US, most posters are sold on a four-week cycle, making this adjustment even more pronounced.

A typical digital billboard, on the other hand, typically has six slots available in a loop, each 8–10 seconds long. Across one 12 hour day, that’s six potential advertisers – across a year, 2,190 potential unique advertisers. For one person to sell and process 26 bookings – easy. 2,190, not impossible, but pretty unwieldy.

This is where it gets really tricky. Start adding day parts and bookings via automated guaranteed with one-hour windows and your potential daily total is up around 2,016 different advertisers. That’s well over 700,000 bookings per year.

Add flexible bookings and the number of potential advertisers becomes, well, infinite.

An insurmountable task to request of your sales team unaided.

Digital billboard showing a dynamic targeted campaign

Image via Grand Visual

What’s an OOH inventory management system?

Think of an OOH Inventory Management System as a supercharged spreadsheet. It’s a piece of software that keeps a live, centralised record of all locations, availability, bookings, artwork management and campaign delivery (and sometimes accounting too).

Depending on the provider, and your needs, one system might cover the complete process or focus on one area, while connecting to purpose-built software for another.

How will that help media owners tackle this new way to sell D/OOH?

A live, centralised system brings many benefits, including greater efficiency and reduced risk of human error. But perhaps most importantly, an inventory management system is the first step towards being able to connect your inventory with automated buyers. Once you have a live, digital inventory you will (with the right tools) be able to establish connections with the different automated buying platforms such as Posterscope’s ECOS, MediaCom’s Trading Desk and Talon’s Plato.

Some providers of full-service Inventory Management Systems for OOH include:

  • Fusion by Key Systems
  • SmartBRICS by JC Decaux
  • LiveDOOH
  • Ayuda
  • Aureus by Kinetic

Here at Signkick, while we don’t offer a full-service Inventory Management System, we do offer Connectivity+. This add on to Signkick Trading Bridge is ideally suited to media owners with less than 300 frames. Advancing you from spreadsheets to online visibility of your inventory through an easy-to-use platform, you’ll be able to manage automated bookings and place manual ones, to keep up with your competition.

For larger media owners, with existing inventory management systems, we’ve already pre-built the API connection between Signkick Trading Bridge and Fusion. And we’re ready and waiting to integrate with whoever you choose.

Investing in an inventory management system makes it easy for buyers of the future to choose you and frees your sales team to focus more time on what they do best – sell more space. As Primesight’s Mungo Knott puts it “In the past, media owners have been comfortable making huge investments in high-quality advertising sites rather than software development. Investment is now necessary in inventory management systems to ensure we continue forward as an industry.”

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.

OOH Ecosystem diagram

Connecting the OOH ecosystem

Business strategist James Moore was the first to compare business with biological ecosystems, describing it as “an increasingly interconnected community of companies adapting and evolving to survive.” Moore suggested a company be viewed not as a single firm, but as a member of an ecosystem spanning multiple disciplines.

In DOOH, this couldn’t be more true to life. Our interconnected ecosystem is made up of advertisers, media owners, specialists, agencies, hardware and software suppliers, data suppliers and more. Delivering an end-to-end campaign requires each one – with their unique systems, connections and relationships – to work together.

Add dynamic campaigns and new ways to plan and buy to the mix, and it becomes increasingly complex for media owners to handle transactions in the traditional way. At least at scale.

Connect to automated buyers OOH

How do media owners navigate this increasingly complex ecosystem?

Like many industries, OOH is turning to tech. For media owners, automation software relieves sales teams of laborious manual tasks, freeing their focus for what really matters. Automation also holds the key to connecting with automated buyers, paving the way to new ways to buy and sell and beyond to optimisation and closed-loop reporting.

Are automation and programmatic the same?

Put simply, automation is a brand or agency using a computer program (a DSP) to tell a computer program on the sell side (an SSP) what they want to buy and the SSP responding in near real time.

Programmatic is simply a type of automated transaction and there are several, constantly evolving, models. While relatively new to OOH, Online has been using automated and programmatic buying for some time. To understand the different models, it’s useful to look to the evolution of automated and programmatic buying in Online advertising (where it has been the status quo for some time).

In 2013, the IAB categorised the different models into combinations of fixed, auction-based, reserved and unreserved.

IAB `automation and programmatic Trading Models Diagram

Working predominantly in the UK market, we’ve found the greatest appetite from DOOH buyers and sellers alike, is for the automated guaranteed buying method.

What is Automated Guaranteed in DOOH?

Put very simply, it’s an API that allows a buyer to:

  • Discover inventory
  • Check (near – within one second or so) real-time availability
  • Place reservations and bookings
  • Push artwork
  • Retrieve reporting

All with a price pre-agreed between the buyer and seller – per booking or with a CPM rate for a fixed period.

How do we get mass adoption of Automated Guaranteed in UK OOH?

We believe that mass adoption of automated guaranteed in the UK will ready the DOOH market for further evolutions in programmatic OOH. So, what are the steps we need to get there?

Digitised inventory

Based on numbers from Outsmart and Space, DOOH currently represents over £500M in revenue, which is almost half of the OOH market. As of October 2018, there are almost 19,000 DOOH screens in the UK. We’re moving to a digitised OOH world, and fast.

Piccadilly Lights Digital OOH Billboard

Demand from buyers

While most UK media owners are on board with the benefits they’re unlikely to move until their buyers demand it. In the UK, 90% of planning and buying comes from a small group of specialists and agencies. Posterscope, MediaCom, Talon, Kinetic and Rapport.

With these buyers live, or close to live, with automated systems that have the ability to buy both broadcast and granular, data-based campaigns, that time is now. Those media owners quickest to move have a golden opportunity to take revenue from their competitors.

Connectivity

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, each part of the campaign delivery puzzle must connect and speak seamlessly to the next.

With the introduction of industry standards, such as IAB’s OpenDirect 1.5.1, some progress has been made. But to achieve complete connectivity, there are many more technical hurdles to be overcome.

Which is why we’ve introduced Signkick Trading Bridge.

Signkick Trading Bridge is the friction-free way for D/OOH media owners to connect and trade with automated buyers.

Whether you are a top-tier media owner looking for compatibility, or a challenger brand starting from scratch, Signkick Trading Bridge can help you get ahead. Get in touch or head here to find out more.

Cloud hosted software for OOH

OOH Software: Cloud-Hosted or On-Premise?

The software you choose to power your OOH business can have a lasting impact on your bottom line. While there are many different providers and offerings, most software falls into one of two categories – ‘Cloud-Hosted’ or ‘On-Premise’.

There are a host of differences that you’ll want to weigh up before you make a choice. The easiest way to wrap your head around these differences is to use a comparison we’re all familiar with – the vehicles you use to get around.

But before we buckle up and get going, we need a quick explanation of the difference between ‘The ‘Cloud’, and ‘Cloud-Hosted’ software. Because these terms are often, incorrectly, used interchangeably.

Cloud hosted software for OOH

What’s the difference between ‘The Cloud’ and ‘Cloud-Hosted’ software?

‘The Cloud’ refers to the technical infrastructure and services that store, manage and process data. This infrastructure is physically housed in remote data centres containing many servers connected to the internet. These services are rented, usually by technical teams or companies, from anywhere that has an internet connection. Companies that provide these services include Amazon Web Services or Google Cloud Platform.

Cloud-Hosted software refers to the applications built by technical teams using the ‘The Cloud’s’ technical infrastructure. They create an application that is stored in ‘The Cloud’ and accessed by a user, like you or me, by logging into an internet browser.

There are three major types of ‘Cloud-Hosted’ software: Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) or Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). The type most relevant to OOH is Software-as-a-Service, the second two are primarily for technical IT people, so in this article, we’ll focus on SaaS.

Now, back to our comparison.

On-Premise software is like owning your own car

‘On-Premise’ software is any software application that you buy a license for and have installed locally on servers you own and manage on your property.

Like when you own your own car, you pay an upfront cost, then own it outright. It is kept on your property and you can drive it whenever and wherever you like. But with control comes responsibility. So maintenance, security and knowing how to drive safely, falls on you.

On-premise software is like owning your own car

Image via The Drum

SaaS is like booking a flight

Software-as-a-Service, or SaaS, is a standalone application designed for any person to access and use, through a web browser on your computer. You might have used products like Gmail, Salesforce or Trello. All three are SaaS products.

Like when you book a flight, you only pay for the flights you book. You are in charge of the destination but are guided on the best route by an expert pilot. You have your own seat on the plane, but ride with others, and must check in at the airport with your passport to take the flight.

One of the greatest advantages of SaaS is that by joining other passengers, you receive a more powerful service that can goes further than your car. You also have a dedicated team of pilots, stewards, security staff and engineers who ensure the service performs to the highest possible standards. Plus, if your destination changes, it’s very easy to change flight or book additional seats!

Cloud-Hosted Software is like taking a flight

Image via DA&D

Could I buy ‘On-Premise’ software then host it in ‘The Cloud’?

It’s rare, but this is an option and is a bit like leasing a car. You hold the keys and can drive it wherever you like. Insurance, repairs and upgrades are managed by the leasing company.

Your options compared

 

 On-PremiseCloud-Hosted (SaaS)On-Premise Hosted in The Cloud
OwnershipOne-off, upfront license fee & monthly support fee.Pay-as-you-go subscription which includes updates and support.Software: One-off, upfront license fee & monthly support fee.
Hardware: Pay-as-you-go subscription
Host LocationOn your servers, on your property.Hosted in ‘The Cloud’ via the vendor’s hardware in specialised data centres.Hosted in ‘The Cloud’ via the vendor’s hardware in specialised data centres.
AvailabilityHardware must be installed and configured before use.Available as soon as you have paid.Access to hardware is available immediately, software needs to be installed and configured.
AccessSoftware is installed locally on the computers you’ll use it from.Can be accessed via a web browser from anywhere, on any device, using a username and password.Software is installed locally on the computers you’ll use it from.
CustomisationHighly customisable (although usually at a cost) and you retain full control over hardware and data.An out-of-the-box solution means it is not very customisable. Vendor controls the hardware on your behalf.Highly customisable (although usually at a cost) and you retain full control over hardware and data.
PerformanceDependent on your infrastructure’s performance and local network latency.Equipped with high-performance computing systems guaranteeing low network latency.Dependent on your infrastructure’s performance and local network latency.
Software UpdatesNot always included in your license and must be carried out manually in-house.Included in your subscription price and are made by your vendor automatically.Not always included in your license and must be carried out manually in-house.
Scalability and UpgradesDifficult and slow to scale and dependent on hardware capabilities.The vendor has built-in scalability so can be scaled up or down with a few clicks.Limited scalability, as only the hardware is easy to scale.
MaintenanceYou are responsible for maintenance and must keep a trained in-house team or pay for a consultant.The vendor is responsible for all maintenance which happens automatically.You are responsible for maintenance and must keep a trained in-house team or pay for a consultant.
SecurityYou are responsible for managing security, threats and data protection.Your vendor keeps your hardware in specially designed data centres with premium security and backup systems.You are responsible for managing security, threats and data protection.


It’s clear there are pros and cons with both types  – it simply depends on your business. But what’s also clear is the trend toward cloud-hosting. 77% of UK organisations currently use ‘The Cloud’ to power everything from storage to finance.

As many media owners embark on a tech overhaul, now’s the time to decide whether ‘On-Premise’ or ‘Cloud-Hosted’ is right for you. For more information, or to discuss your options, get in touch, we’re always happy to offer advice.

Coding an API for OOH

What is an API in OOH?

Connectivity is an amazing thing. We live in a world where everything is connected, where we can purchase, post or plan anything with the tap of a button.

But how does this work?

How do platforms written in different coding languages, calling things different names, and formatting data differently send and receive information they both understand? Furthermore, as each pursues its own agenda how do you keep up with changes, at scale, to keep the conversation flowing?

The answers lie in just three letters. API.

Coding an API in OOH

What is an API?

APIs, or Application Programming Interfaces, are the unsung heroes of our connected world. They are the engines that power every digital transaction and request we make from checking flights to ordering pizza online.

The dictionary defines an API as “a set of functions and procedures that allow the creation of applications which access the features or data of an operating system, application, or other service.”

Simply put, an API is the starting point for how you expose or receive information. Think of an API as your messenger taking a request from one platform, checking for the answer on another, and returning with that answer.

How do APIs help us trade D/OOH?

In DOOH, APIs hold the keys to automation and programmatic trading. They are the messengers passing information needed to make a transaction, such as price and availability, between buyers and sellers in a way they both understand. Instantly with the click of a button. An essential step in processing transactions via automated guaranteed or real time bidding.

Simple huh? Well, yes and no. There’s one more complication to figure out.

In the real world, buyers and sellers have different ways of talking about the same things. Some might call a 48 sheet a ‘panel’, while others a ‘frame’ or ‘location’. The buyer might define their purchase by ‘number of plays’ while the seller processes them as ‘slots’ or ‘flips’.

Think of it as two spreadsheets – one holds the requests from a buyer and the other the inventory of the seller. Each contains information that is essentially the same, but the column order doesn’t match up and they are labelled with different names for the same thing.

This would, of course, cause the request to fail.

Enter our clever messenger the API. Not only is the API ferrying messages around, but it also translates the messages so both parties can understand them. So in the case of our two spreadsheets, the API would rearrange the columns, align the different headings and anything else – such as translating French to English!!

It’s APIs that make it possible for computers to take care of your trading. They’re what ultimately creates connectivity. So whenever you think about an API, just think of it as a messenger running back and forth between you and your buyers interpreting the message as it goes.

An API in OOH helps you achieve connectivity

How do I build an API for OOH?

Building an API is something you can do yourself. It might take a bit of time and resources but it is possible. But for many, the speed bumps occur when trying to achieve connectivity at scale.

The number of agencies, DSPs and trading platforms is growing every day and many now represent some of the biggest buyers of OOH media. To connect with them, you need to build an individual API for each one. And the work doesn’t stop there. As both these companies and the industry, continually change and grow your APIs will need to be maintained and updated with them.

That’s where a technology partner comes in. At Signkick it’s our job to build, maintain and future-proof these APIs on your behalf. Better yet, many of the connections you need have already been built, streamlining your entry into this automated trading ecosystem, and letting you get on with doing what you do best.

Interested? Get in touch.

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.

Open ecommerce for OOH store

What could ecommerce for OOH look like?

From flights to fast food, everything we could ever want or need is available online, just a few taps away.

But not D/OOH advertising.

Traditionally, purchasing digital and classic OOH has been a cumbersome process for advertisers and media owners alike. Sales teams rely on spreadsheets and advertisers make phone calls (within business hours!) every time they need price and availability. With advertising increasingly bought by the click-to-purchase generation, media owners must meet their demand to buy D/OOH from anywhere at any time. Enter, automated online purchasing and e-commerce for OOH.

Open ecommerce for OOH store

A ready-built e-commerce store can get you ahead

With the big players moving slowly in the race to automate, there is a real opportunity for smaller, more nimble media owners to get ahead. Through white-label, cloud-based software, media owners can quickly power an e-commerce storefront that automates the planning and purchase of D/OOH to supercharge sales, transform long tail purchases into profitable sales, and overcome boundaries like time zones, language or currency.

While automation is sometimes met with reservation from media owners, software developers are responding better than ever with tailored solutions that allow media owners to remain in complete control.

For some, however, automation still feels like jumping off a cliff into the unknown. But it certainly doesn’t have to start with a great leap of faith. We recommend a stepped approach to transition your OOH media business to full e-commerce. Start (or even stay!) at step one or dive in where you feel comfortable.

1. Launch a private OOH e-commerce store

For media owners only interested in sharing their inventory with those they know, this option is perfect.

  • A closed online platform branded to look like you.
  • Only accessible privately to those you have created an account for.
  • Live D/OOH price and availability on an easy to search map.
  • Pick and choose which panels are listed (and for what price).
  • Create secure logins for staff to quickly check price and availability and manage orders.
  • Choose to create secure logins for regular clients, empowering them to self-serve from price and availability check to purchase, payment and artwork upload.

Private ecommerce store behind a login

2. Launch an OOH e-commerce store where users must create an account to gain access

Capture valuable long tail purchases and build a list of potential leads by keeping your inventory behind a login wall. Perfect for media owners seeing success with option one who are ready to open up their inventory (but not completely!) to untapped markets.

  • Online store accessible to users who create an account and log in.
  • Capture the name, company and email address of valuable leads for your sales team to chase and well as opportunities to cross and upsell.
  • Linked from your existing website and branded to look like you.
  • Live D/OOH price and availability on an easy to search map.
  • Pick and choose which panels are listed (and for what price).
  • Customise the price and availability shown to certain clients.
  • Create secure logins for staff to quickly check price and availability and manage customer orders.

3. Launch a fully open, e-commerce store (think Amazon for OOH!)

  • Open an online store where anyone can search price and availability, but they must create an account to purchase.
  • Linked from your existing website and branded to look like you.
  • Live D/OOH price and availability on an easy to search map.
  • Pick and choose which panels are listed (and for what price).
  • Customise the price and availability shown to certain clients.
  • Create secure logins for staff to quickly check price and availability and manage customer orders.
  • Capture full advertiser details.

It is this scenario many media owners have in mind when staring off that cliff. But operating open e-commerce for OOH isn’t like abandoning your open ledger book at a bar on Friday night. Using software to list your inventory online allows new customers to search, find and buy, while you retain full control over which panels are displayed, and for what price. You can even offer tailored pricing to certain clients, allowing them to benefit from national buying power, at the local level.

With good marketing, opening an e-commerce platform for OOH holds unlimited potential to boost your sales success. Better yet, it brings D/OOH to the click-to-purchase generation ensuring you are open for business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in whichever language, currency or time zone they prefer. But the best part for media owners is the flexibility of automation software that means you don’t have to go full monty to get ahead in the race to automate.

If that sounds like an option worth exploring, take a look at Console, Signkick’s white-label e-commerce storefront for OOH media owners or get in touch with the team.

Signkick Blog Image Showing Digital Roadside Billboards

The potential for automation in OOH advertising

Automation really is the word of the hour. The ability for software and digital technology to streamline both ad performance and delivery has already come a long way in a short stretch of time. Nowhere is the potential for automation as tantalising as in out-of-home (OOH) advertising. Let’s take a look at the possibilities.

image showing multiple digital ooh advertising boards

Automated booking of OOH for direct customers

By automating the booking of OOH using purpose-built outdoor advertising software, media owners can save time and money while connecting to new revenue streams not previously possible.

By adding an e-commerce platform, such as Signkick’s Console, to the traditional OOH booking model, media owners allow their customers who want to book out-of-home advertising in, say, cinemas in the Manchester area, to punch in a postcode and pull up a list of available cinema 6-sheets without the need to contact their sales team.

Once they’ve selected the option they want they can purchase the asset, upload their artwork, all within the outdoor advertising software.

By migrating from spreadsheets and phone calls to live online availability, you can capture these smaller sales with little to no effort, allowing your sales team to focus on what really matters – meeting their targets and building client relationships.

Digital Forecourt

Think how simple and streamlined this process is compared to the old days.

But also think about the potential to expand the domain of ad booking via automation. Imagine if advertisers could buy a digital billboard in the area near their DIY store and also select an option to automatically send targeted Facebook ads to smartphone users within a 1-mile radius of the ad? This is the potential power of automation.

Automating personalised OOH campaigns

Digital is one of the key areas in which the potential for OOH is very exciting. For example, advertisers could book a digital display in a Post Office to show their ten-second ad twice a minute for £100 per day. What if you could also offer smartphone data and automation to re-target ads viewed by individuals as they go about their daily business? Automation could be used to deliver personalised ad campaigns that are tailored to individuals, just like online retargeting and personalised ads do now.

Automating OOH advertising strategy

Automated outdoor advertising software systems tend to focus on purchasing individual OOH assets on a geographical basis, making adjustments for advertising format, display frequency for digital ads, and so on. But there is a high potential for automation to be applied to OOH strategy as well.

What if you could sell an OOH campaign template that is tailored by size of brand, type of audience, location and so on? When the advertiser plugs in basic details of their campaign the system would offer various templates based on effective campaigns that other brands have run in the past – all while you retain full control.

The system could suggest the most effective options for their campaign, given their demographic, desired outcomes and budget. You could then use real-time performance data gathered by harnessing mobile phone data, and even using facial recognition tech, to tell them how many people have viewed their ads and for how long. It’s not hard to think about how much potential there is for such automated ad buying, especially given that all the aforementioned functionalities already exist, from harvesting anonymised phone data to configure ad delivery, to (slightly creepy) audience recognition systems.

Automating OOH ad monitoring

Monitoring the effectiveness of outdoor and OOH advertising campaigns has been the thorn in the side of marketing bean counters for time immemorial. We know that it does work, but it’s hard to track campaign effectiveness and accurately map it to ROI… in short, it’s hard to know which aspect of a campaign is working, and which areas are ineffective and wasting time and money. This kind of monitoring is especially desirable for small and medium-sized businesses who need to keep a close eye on ingoings and outgoings.

There are already ways you can measure the effectiveness of outdoor ads, but they tend to by DIY “tricks” that you have to manually apply to campaigns. There’s no reason such analytics can’t be built into automated OOH systems from the ground up. Here are ways automation could be used to monitor OOH performance…

Autogenerate QR codes that are tailored to the asset’s location

This would mean that you could track how many people had visited your website or product range via the QR code at each location. This would help you work out which audiences are most engaged with your brand.

Tailor the links and hashtags of each creative in such a way as to track the engagement generated from specific ad sites

For example, let’s say your campaign has the hashtag #widgets4u. Ads that run in Manchester would be auto-tagged #widgets4Manchester. Bus stop ads could be tagged #widgets4commuters, ads displayed in the morning could be tagged #widgets4earlybirds, ads placed in financial centres could be tagged #widgets4banks and so on.

You could then, for example, discover that a campaign had the most appeal to early morning commuters. These are all things that you could do right now, but automation has the potential to streamline these processes so that less brainpower, time and resources are devoted to creating effective advertiser OOH campaigns.

Get with the programmatic

Automation has already made ad-booking much more streamlined and accessible to SME’s. And OOH tech is developing at a rapid pace as more and more brands turn to the out-of-home arena. If you haven’t already investigated Signkick’s automation software for OOH media owners – read more about it here or get in touch and start supercharging your sales team’s performance.

Image showing someone using Pokemon Go VR

The Future of AR in Out-of-Home

Image showing Pokemon Go Augmented Reality App

Image via Katana Media

One of the exciting things about out-of-home (OOH) advertising is that it is capable of endless development, reinvention and revolution. Whilst, for example, online represented a threat to print media, OOH has embraced the potential for merging the worlds of online and offline. The same is true with mobile, digital, the Internet of Things (IoT) and a whole host of tech innovations.

One of the aforementioned tech innovations that we can expect to hear much more from in 2018 is Augmented Reality, or AR. Two of the most widely known and used applications of Augmented Reality are Pokemon hunting (as pictured above) and Snapchat.

Let’s take a look at how AR can shape the future of OOH.

What is AR?

AR is about “creating the illusion that virtual objects are placed in the physical world”, according to Apple’s ARKit development team.

ARKit has been used to create virtual storybooks that can be overlaid onto real world scenes that can be explored from any angle, and has been used by IKEA to help you redesign your living room by trying out virtual furniture in your home.

Image showing AR app available to download for Ikea furniture purchasing

Image via Mashable

AR is not to be confused with Virtual Reality (VR), which is a totally immersive experience where the real world is completely shut out.

This distinction shows why it is AR that looks set to revolutionise out-of-home advertising; AR allows marketers to merge dynamic creative content with the outside world. This a powerful way of combining the physicality of the OOH environment with the dynamism of digital content.

AR has been used in Outdoor advertising for a few years now.

Lynx were AR early adopters, with their 2011 “Angel Ambush” campaign, which saw sexy celestial beings descend to earth in London Victoria.

The 2014 Pepsi Max “Unbelievable” bus shelter campaign was a high profile example of how AR can be used in Outdoor advertising; its promo video became YouTube’s most viewed ad campaign at the time.

In 2016 the NHS launched a groundbreaking AR billboard campaign which allowed audiences to virtually give blood to a patient and witness the life-saving effects.

NHS OOH Augmented reality

Image via Marketing Week

The future

The AR market is predicted to be worth around $90 billion by 2020, and a majority of American consumers saw the positive benefits of integrating AR and the Internet of Things (IoT) into their daily lives; 62% saw the benefits for shopping, which is encouraging for OOH marketers!

There are over 1300 AR startups listed on Angel List at the time of writing, with an average $5 million valuation. This indicates that we are set to see an explosion in AR-related products which will help to nudge AR even further into the mainstream.

One of the interesting things about the future of AR in OOH is how it can transform the medium by telescoping traditional OOH infrastructure into a mobile device. Rather than having a physical billboard that has to be built into the environment and rented by a media buyer, the whole world is a potential billboard. If you want to turn Big Ben into a giant promotional poster, you’ll be able to do so… without the pesky planning permission, such a feat would traditionally entail!

Companies like Blippar are already putting this kind of approach into action with features such as their face recognition tech which can be used to look up famous faces by scanning magazine pages, as well as car recognition functionality for the automotive inclined.

We’re still a little way off from people walking around in a constant AR daze, but nonetheless, the future will certainly involve more brands encouraging audiences to download AR apps to enter a dynamic, digital world.

More accessible AR

At the moment, most AR take-up is from big hitters with the kind of advertising budgets that can easily allow for such digital innovation. The future of AR will certainly involve making this tech more accessible for small companies and startups, just as it is becoming increasingly affordable for SMEs to take out digital OOH ad space.

Zappar offer a DIY AR design service for around £82 per month which offers a lot of innovative features, although it would be useful to have one-off purchase options to allow marketers to use it on an ad-hoc basis.

Smart City integration

Smart Cities are about linking up the civic with the commercial and creating an integration of online, digital and mobile tech with the urban environment.

In the same way that ad spaces have been used to provide features like benches, shelters and access ramps, one can imagine the integration of AR into this mix as well. It would be a great way for this fledgling tech to piggyback off of existing infrastructure, and to create an even more immersive experience for consumers.

AR will complement existing OOH assets

It would be wrong to see AR as replacing existing OOH ad formats in the future. Brands will still book billboards, but it will be commonplace for these to be complemented by overlays, in the same way as it is commonplace to integrate QR codes and NFC tech.

Zappar are currently pioneering this approach; their One Direction AR poster is a great example of integrating AR with static media. They’re even trying to coin the verb “to zap” to describe AR experiences. Could this be the next “to Google”? Only the future will tell.

Image of Zappars Zap the Code billboard technology

Image by: Zappar