It’s time to move towards the Open OOH era

Open OOH era

It’s an electric time to be in OOH

Outsmart have confirmed it is onwards and upwards for the UK OOH industry, reporting 9.8% growth in Q3 to build on strong growth from earlier in the year. The forecast is all clear skies for the US too, with D/OOH posting over 7% year-on-year growth in every quarter in 2019 and showing no signs of slowing down.

One of the largest contributing factors towards this growth is the huge investment media owners have made converting their inventory from paper-and-paste to shiny new digital screens.

In the UK, DOOH has been responsible for driving 17.1% growth in Q3. Full motion copy, dynamic creative, data integration, flexible purchasing and short lead activation has got advertisers, buyers and media owners excited.

We believe this is just the beginning for D/OOH

Much of the Out-of-Home industry’s success has been built on our ability to connect. To connect with audiences. To connect brands with consumers. To connect buyers with the right space for their clients. Unlocking the next level of growth for our medium depends on our ability to connect the huge potential of our digital OOH transformation, with a wider audience.

As is natural, we’ve looked to other industries to guide us. Programmatic – conceived in online advertising – is being held up as an exciting way of delivering OOH to more advertisers. Rapid progress is being made on the path towards programmatic trading – particularly in places like The Netherlands, where the most recent AdTECH OOH event was held.

While exciting, we believe Programmatic DOOH isn’t the only way to unlock more from advertiser budgets. In most markets, classic OOH still accounts for the majority of all OOH inventory and most of the spend. The poster child of OOH, the static billboard, is responsible for making our industry – and countless brands – famous. So should we not be exploring ways to make buying and selling classic OOH easier and more efficient too?

Automation can deliver new revenue for media owners

Automation of pre-bought campaigns, considered the less sexy cousin of programmatic, is delivering very real access to new revenue for many media owners. Earlier this month we announced an exciting milestone in the path towards a more connected OOH era. Our Signkick Trading Bridge software is enabling live, automated transactions between the buy and sell side for companies such as MediaCom’s Trading Desk to Clear Channel UK, Global Outdoor, Admedia, City Outdoor, Limited Space and Wold Outdoor. Including new revenue from new advertisers those media owners had never worked with before. What could be sexier than that?

Individually we’ve come a long way. In the UK the specialists are live with sophisticated automated buying systems. Exchanges such as Vistar and VIOOH are gaining momentum. Omnichannel DSPs are becoming more and more interested. Reporting and data is becoming increasingly sophisticated. Now is the time to scale that progress and turn it into something truly transformative for our industry. To connect the dots from campaign planning and buying, to delivery and reporting.

But, connectivity, the thing that holds the most potential, is also proving one of our most difficult challenges. Connecting companies and systems that have been developed in isolation, according to different priorities and agendas, isn’t easy. That’s why we’re championing a shift to an Open OOH era.

For anyone paying attention to the financial services industry in the last year, this language will be familiar. Open Banking was introduced in January 2018 and indeed, technologically, there are many parallels between how Open Banking and the Open OOH era can be achieved.

Open Banking set out to make it easier to connect and share financial information across different systems between different companies. Its goal: to make banking better for the customer. Nearly two years later and the customer is very much in the driver’s seat, with the ability to open one banking app and see a list of all their accounts – even from other banks. With plenty more functionality on the horizon. To enable this, financial regulators did not sit the big banks down with start-up Fintechs and force them to do things the same way. Each company still has their own way of doing things, they still run their own systems, structured their own way. What Open Banking allows is the ability to seamlessly connect the ecosystem to offer a superior product for the customer. To connect each player with access to new and existing partners and revenue streams. To have their cake and eat it too.

The same thinking and technology that powers the Open Banking movement, can power the Open OOH era.

Creating seamless and friction-free connections between different players and systems in the ecosystem is possible, and is happening now

Here at Signkick, we’re excited about the potential this big sky thinking holds for our industry. As a technology partner for media owners, we know our role to play in making this happen and we’re on a mission to do just that. Our software acts as the tech layer that intelligently connects media owners with automated buyers. We’re already helping top tier media owners and independents get a slice of the Open OOH era and we’d love to help others.

Creating a connected ecosystem is the first step towards making OOH easier and more enticing to buy, to deliver an advertiser-focused, supercharged, modern OOH offering.

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.


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.

O2's dynamic Crack the Code campaign on City Outdoor's Shoreditch digital screen.

Automation and Programmatic DOOH – problematic or full of possibility?

It’s the p-word on everyone’s lips. But unlike online advertising, moving D/OOH to full automation and programmatic trading comes with another big p-word. Problems.

So where does programmatic D/OOH trading become problematic? And how do we crack the code to make these problems, possibilities?

O2's dynamic Crack the Code campaign on City Outdoor's Shoreditch digital screen.

Image via City Outdoor

First, let’s get clear on two current front-runners in automated and programmatic trading in D/OOH

Automated Guaranteed (AG)

This is the automated purchase of ad spaces, replacing the traditional manual process, following a deal agreed between buyer and seller that fixes the space, display time and pricing.

Real-Time Bidding (RTB)

The real-time (well, 0.03 seconds is pretty live!) purchase and placement of adverts based on audience delivery and sold on auction basis – the space goes to the highest bidder.

In the real world, of course, it’s not quite this simple with more complex subsets of both trading types. RTB and AG both give you the option to change the copy, to deliver dynamic and contextually relevant content.

Who benefits from automation?

A defining characteristic of the traditional OOH transaction is its complexity. Automating this complex manual process offers big advantages for both the buy and sell side, as it:

  • Simplifies D/OOH buying and selling
  • Opens up new markets
  • Improves efficiency to reduce admin costs
  • Eliminates human error
  • Improves transparency
  • Paves the way towards new ways of buying
  • Closes the reporting loop

Automation provides buyers and sellers with a powerful new way to operate, putting planning, negotiation, delivery and reporting all in one place. And doing it automatically. It’s a tool that makes the time-consuming and error-prone manual processes required to book OOH media, a thing of the past.

A dynamic digital campaign from Ebay showcasing the benefits of rtb and automated guaranteed

How do we turn problems into possibles?

RTB has been widely adopted by the online advertising world. It is thought of as the most common way to buy and sell online media, although in reality, only accounts for around half of all transactions, giving a greater share to AG than many expect. For D/OOH, there are a few problems that need to become possibles before we to become programmatic.

1. We need to play to D/OOH’s strength as a one-to-many medium

D/OOH is inherently different from online. As a one-to-many medium intended for broad reach and with indexing more appropriate than direct audience delivery, it will be a long time before we’re able to define an audience in the same way as online. Making RTB, in the traditional sense, difficult to achieve.

For this reason, agencies are looking to AG as the first step. AG automates the media planning and buying process offering many of the benefits and paving the way towards RTB.

2. We need to make our D/OOH inventory live

The second problem for D/OOH arises from the current lack of infrastructure. There are physical and system requirements needed on both sides to make both AG and RTB truly live. This means migrating media owners from spreadsheets and phone calls to a fully live system that delivers costs and availability in real time, then accepts bookings from an automated buyer.

Big media owners such as Clear Channel, Primesight and JCDecaux are backing this transition to programmatic buying by investing heavily in the buying tools and inventory management systems to enable connections to buying platforms. It is not enough to just be live. You must also be connected.

3. We need to prepare the market

Media owners have invested heavily in digital screens, resulting in an explosion of DOOH availability. Combine this with the inherent measurement differences in OOH that make it impossible to compare to existing online or Video-On-Demand trading desks, and you have a complex sell. This means companies like Broadsign, Vistar and Hivestack are not only building DOOH RTB but they’re also having to create their own market to sell it in. “In the US, clients are interested, but not asking for programmatic OOH by name” says David Krupp, CEO Kinetic.

For this reason, it makes sense to move to AG first. That’s the priority for many media owners, including Outfront’s Andy Sriubus who told Ad Exchanger: “Workflow automation is the key.”

4. We need to learn from online, but not be online

D/OOH’s value will never be fully realised within existing online trading models. So, perhaps we need to create a new model. A new way to talk about trading out-of-home that is programmatic, but D/OOH programmatic. A dynamic and connected ecosystem that plays to the strengths of OOH but gives us the benefits of programmatic that agencies and advertisers will ask for.

digital OOH RTB and automation As a technology partner for media owners, it is our mission to help media owners enter into this new way of trading. To make them live, connected and ahead of the curve. And at the end of the day, whether it is digital or classic, sell more space.

Interested? Get in touch.

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.