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.

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




What’s the difference between NFC and iBeacons?

NFC is a short range wireless communication format that works in much the same way as contactless payments, enabling two devices to connect over short distances (around 4 inches/10 cm).


Image via Clear Channel

By way of contrast, iBeacons use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology to push messages to mobile and tablet apps over distances of around 70 meters.

Using NFC and iBeacons in outdoor advertising

An early example of NFC use in outdoor advertising came from 20th Century Fox back in 2011. When consumers tapped their phones against NFC chips embedded in posters for the latest X-Men film they were taken directly to a link to watch the trailer.

Dominos Pizza used NFC to allow consumers to download their app straight from a poster, driving demand during the slow summer months.

iBeacons have been making a great impact in the Out-of-Home (OOH) advertising industry, with ABI Research estimating around 1million beacons in use by mid-2016 and forecasting 400million units in operation by 2020.

Initially more common in indoor scenarios, providing shoppers in-store information, there are many outdoor uses too. Wimbledon tennis have made innovative use of iBeacons to broadcast queuing information to people arriving at nearby tube stations.

Advantages and disadvantages of NFC and iBeacons

NFC is an ideal way to deepen engagement with consumers on an individual basis. It not only allows users to instantly access further information about a product, but turns passive engagement into active engagement by encouraging users to interact with advertising in a direct and immediate way.

The flip side of this is that NFC only works over very short ranges and requires the consumer to actively engage with the advertising.

iBeacons broadcast to consumers as soon as they are within range and operate over fairly large signal ‘zones’. They, therefore, have a greater reach than NFC. However, these messages don’t guarantee consumer engagement. They also require phones to be unlocked for full functionality to come into play.

Unlike NFC, which uses ever-present radio waves to communicate, iBeacons rely on a solid 3G or 4G connection. So areas with patchy signal could throw a spanner in the works of effective engagement.

At the cutting edge of outdoor advertising

There are of course advantages and disadvantages to both NFC and iBeacons. However, it’s important not to see them as rival marketing tools, but rather as complementary ones.

iBeacons are great for getting marketing messaging to reach a wide, location-specific audience, whereas NFC facilitates micro-level consumer engagement and information exchange.

The effective use of these tools as part of an integrated advertising campaign represents the cutting edge of marketing strategy in a country that has more smartphones than people.