OpenDirect 1.5.1: what does it mean?

Last month, Outsmart and the IPA’s outdoor specialists announced the publication of OpenDirect (OOH) 1.5.1, a programmatic direct trading standard for the OOH industry. Building on the IAB Tech Lab’s OpenDirect structure, this new standard will become the go-to source of information for those outside the industry to connect with OOH and incorporate it into their plans. It’s a wide-ranging document and if you’ve opened the specification you’ll know there’s a huge amount in there to decipher.

But the idea behind the new OpenDirect OOH extension isn’t to complicate things. Quite the opposite. It’s about creating a common framework that simplifies how we connect with each other and then with new revenue. It lays the foundations for smarter and easier trading of OOH.

This is something we at Signkick have been championing for a long time. But not only have we been championing a more connected OOH ecosystem, we’ve been building these connections on behalf of our media owners. So if you’re one of our customers (or thinking about becoming one!) you might be wondering how the new specifications change things. 

In this article we’ll take a straightforward look at what the release of the OpenDirect OOH extension means for everyone in the industry, how our existing connections to media buyers work under this new standard and, importantly, what every business needs to do to realise the benefits.

What the OpenDirect extension mean for OOH?

The OOH extension allows the existing OpenDirect standard to account for the difference between digital space and D/OOH space. Something that has plagued the industry for some time. The spec seeks to incorporate the many ‘real world’ attributes of OOH – that it is in the real world with real frames each with different physical characteristics. Look out for these attributes termed ‘OOHbjects’ within the spec.

Secondly, the OpenDirect OOH extension lays the foundations for handling new and constantly evolving ways to plan and trade OOH. This is critical in our quest for new revenue as it outlines a standardised way to accommodate the vast array of trading methods. It also offers an alternative to the at times complex SSP, DSP, Exchange structure. This means if your clients want to trade in impacts, it’s covered by OpenDirect. If they want to trade non-guaranteed space, the standard is there. Guaranteed, frames, plays, fixed-time, revenue-based booking. The framework for how you can build your system to cope with basically any way your client might want to trade is outlined in the spec. Simply put, it helps you to speak to your clients in the language they are used to working in.

What does it mean for Signkick customers?

While the OpenDirect OOH Standard has made a big contribution to improving the workflows associated with transacting OOH. There is still work to be done to first create, then maintain, the connection between buyer and seller.

Given our business is all about building these connections, something we’ve been banging on about for a while, you might be wondering what this latest release means for our customers.

In short, our existing connections are still 100% open for business. Most are built around the previous version of the OpenDirect standard and will quickly incorporate the new extension. For our existing customers these connections will continue to operate seamlessly and mean you already have the foundations in place to accommodate any way your clients would like to buy in the future. 

What the OpenDirect extension doesn’t do

Think of the OpenDirect OOH extension as plans for a house. They outline where and how the foundations should be laid and where and how to build the roof and walls. But until someone picks up a shovel and builds the house, no one can live there. The OpenDirect extension lays out the way we should be building our systems and processes in order to accommodate different ways of trading. But it doesn’t build them.

Furthermore, the specification outlines every possible trading model, so it is up to each individual company to decide which parts they will embrace. This is where communicating with your trading partners is critical. Just as a standard is nothing without the system to implement it, a system is nothing without someone on the other end of the transaction. A house only becomes a home when there is someone living in it!

This is where it really starts to get interesting. Right now, you and your trading partners may only be interested in trading frames. By using the OpenDirect standards to build this capability now, you’re also laying the foundations so that when a future buyer approaches you looking to buy in impacts or CPMs, you’re already most of the way there. 

So while the release of the OpenDirect extension doesn’t change everything straight away, it does signal the start of an important period of work for every business in OOH. Now is the time to speak with your trading partners. To get the wheels in motion. Because by embracing the OpenDirect framework in the way we trade now, you’re laying the foundations for accommodating the future of OOH trading. And that’s your golden ticket to new revenue. 

Working in this space for some time and having recently been included in the Technical Standards Committee on Clear Channel’s behalf, we know the benefit every media owner will realise by embracing the standards. To understand more about using the standards to future-proof your business, feel free to get in touch with us at Signkick, Outsmart or one of the IPA specialists – Posterscope, Talon, Kinetic or Rapport.

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.

Image showing two people holding hands to represent connection between DSP and SSP in OOH

What is a SSP and DSP in OOH?

It’s an exciting, though challenging, time for the D/OOH world. Evolving this traditionally analogue medium in the digital age means so much more than replacing posters with screens. The biggest leap is the one we are embarking on. Moving into the third era of transaction, where traditional and digital OOH media are bought and sold automatically, online, with the click of a button.

While we still have a way to go, significant strides have been made towards automation. And as automated and programmatic OOH matures, we’re seeing the emergence of a fully-fledged real-time system that runs alongside a pre-bought marketplace. These developments are, in part, thanks to technological developments bringing the tools and expertise needed to make it all happen. On the sell side, this technology is called a Supply Side Platform or SSP. On the buy side, simply, a Demand Side Platform or DSP.

Let’s take a look at what these platforms offer and how they work together.

Image showing two people holding hands to represent connection between DSP and Supply Side Platform in OOH

First of all, who are we talking about when we say Demand Side and Supply Side in OOH?

In the UK OOH world, agencies do the majority of media buying and make up the Demand-Side. The largest agencies are Mediacom, Kinetic, Posterscope, Talon, Adcity and Rapport.

The Supply-Side in the UK is dominated by the five largest media owners: JCDecaux, Global Outdoor (who acquired Exterion, Primesight and Outdoor Plus in 2019), Clear Channel, Ocean Outdoor. Then there are around 50 smaller media owners, including Limited Space,  8 Outdoor, Boomerang and Kong Outdoor. Individually the inventory of these media owners is small relative to the big five, but when combined, they offer great opportunities for media buyers to reach different, and very specific, audiences.

So, what is an OOH Demand Side Platform?

Put simply, a Demand Side Platform is software that automates and streamlines the purchase of D/OOH media for media buyers. Whether they be for a poster specialist, media agency, direct to an advertiser or an open, online marketplace.

A DSP offers media planners an easy to use platform that will “plug into” a media owners inventory. The mission of the DSP is to empower buyers to build, manage and analyse campaigns, from multiple sources, from a central location. They also simplify and open the doors to different purchasing models such as buying by impressions or audiences.

Current OOH DSPs include:

    • Ecos – Posterscope
    • Plato – Talon
    • Adcity – Havas Media
    • Project X – Adstruc (US)
    • Adform (Europe)
    • Outmoove
    • Platform161
    • Splicky
    • Vistar
    • VIOOH
    • MediaMath (US)
    • Campsite – acquired by Broadsign in 2019 (Canada)

What about a Supply Side Platform?

A Supply Side Platform is the DSP’s reciprocal development and powered by similar technology. An SSP offers software that automates and streamlines the selling of a media owner’s D/OOH inventory.

An SSP’s mission is similar to the DSP but from the opposite side of the transaction. SSPs allow media owners to connect their inventory to multiple DSPs, streamlining existing trading and opening them up to new markets and more potential buyers. SSPs also focus on increasing efficiency and automating monotonous tasks. But unlike DSPs, they work to sell a media owner’s inventory for the highest price possible.

In OOH, SSPs are rarely all-encompassing solutions but tackle one element of the greater Supply-Side ecosystem.

Other companies offering solutions to different parts of the supply-side ecosystem include:

  • Fusion – Key Systems
  • Vistar
  • SmartBRICS – JCDecaux
  • Ayuda – acquired by Broadsign in 2019
  • Live DOOH
  • Broadsign
  • Scala
  • OneLan
  • Campsite – acquired by Broadsign in 2019 (Canada)
  • And, of course, us here at Signkick!

For media owners, this offers the flexibility to choose a combination that best serves your business. But it is also important to understand how these platforms connect and interact before you dive in, as this isn’t always a simple process. We believe the onus should be on the technology company to make this connection seamless for media owners, but not all companies think the same way.

There are many hurdles overcome as the industry adopts these platforms and moves towards automated trading. For this reason, it is critical that buyers and sellers of D/OOH work with experts with not only the skills and experience in automation and software but who also understand how to navigate the complex world of D/OOH. Working with a technology company that specialises in asking the right questions to navigate these complexities will give buyers and sellers a big ‘leg up’ towards the new era of transacting.

Our main mission at Signkick is to help you create friction-free connections to the different parts through Signkick Trading Bridge. But we also offer a consultancy service to help you first navigate the ecosystem and work out the best solution for you. If you’re interested, get in touch.


Image of a man working on a laptop

Why OOH is shaking-up digital marketing

Image of a man doing digital marketing on a laptop

Digital marketing was once considered the forefront of the advertising industry. It’s certainly one of the most targetable, far-reaching, and P.O.P-friendly mediums for advertisers.

But with the rise of ad blockers, a deluge of online messaging, and the problems of fraud and viewability measuring, certain major challenges create some problems for the medium.

To the rescue, out-of-home (OOH) advertising! In recent times OOH is beginning to shake up digital marketing. The internet and outdoors couldn’t be more distinct realms. But they are starting to fuse in truly innovative ways.

The prevalence of digital OOH displays is a crucial factor in this new shake-up for the sector. Let’s take a look at some of the elements that are at play here.

Social media

Live social media feeds can now be curated and broadcast from digital screens, like the recent Race for Life campaign that featured race participants gearing up for the celebrated Cancer Research UK run.

From mall displays with consumer recognition tech that can identify groups and individuals in a crowd, assessing the age, gender, and even mood (so called “gladvertising“) of audiences, to roadside billboards that can tell a Vauxhall from a Volvo, to data mining that can track audiences’, OOH journeys and target ads accordingly, digital screens reflect, and in some ways surpass, the dynamism of online digital.

OOH itself has been given a boost by digital. Online booking platforms like SignKick have made Outdoor ad booking simpler and more affordable than ever and opened a gateway between online and the great outdoors.

OOH has the ability to magnify the impact of online digital campaigns such as this Euro 2016 campaign that displayed football predictions curated via a twitter hashtag… and this PepsiMax campaign that displayed user-generated Vine videos on outdoor screens.


Online digital data can be cross-referenced with real-world consumer data patterns to map up mobile click-through rates with specific geographic locations.

The Home Depot boosted in-store ROI by 800% by harnessing local extensions on display ads to target mobile consumers near local outlets. Whilst this campaign technically took place via online digital it was focused on targeting audiences in the out-of-home environment.

OOH is shaking up digital because whilst it uses and develops on the dynamism and hyper-targeting capabilities of digital, it can’t be thwarted by ad-blockers, and can be targeted at specific locales to maximise point of purchase (POP) behaviour. Digital OOH reaches consumers at an active part of their day when they are often motivated to make purchases whilst out and about. It also has an impact on ad recall, boosting it by 8% according to one recent study.

Augmenting reality

A NHS Blood and Transplant campaign really took the possibilities of digital OOH to a stunning new level. Audiences holding a mobile augmented reality (AR) app to their wrists sent digital blood to a patient on a nearby digital screen in a bid to encourage blood donors.

This visceral demonstration of the power of blood donations to aid the sick drew on real life patient experiences and used mobile-OOH intersection to drive home the impact of individuals giving blood. The campaign was bolstered by online and social media activity including ads on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

These kinds of campaigns are a great demonstration of the disruptive effect of OOH on digital marketing. The outdoor environment has a physicality and viscerally that when combined with digital technology, mobile functionality, and online reach, takes digital into a bold new era.

Combined with out-of-home, digital marketing can be taken into public spaces in a really intimate way. A Terracotta Soldier Exhibit at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum featured a mobile app that would bring the soldiers to life when viewed via a mobile app.

This kind of augmented reality can overlay a digital scene onto a static print poster like this Tic Tac poster that transformed into series of interactive messages, or activate mobile apps like the KFC Snapchat campaign.

It’s like the digital marketing world has been in training for the transformative possibilities that open up in the OOH arena. For all the sophistication of online and mobile digital, it’s not until it is brought into the 3D environment of OOH that its impact becomes truly magnified.

This is exemplified by campaigns like the Magic of Flying campaign for British Airways. A massive digital screen at Piccadilly Circus featured a curious child looking up to the heavens, timed to coincide with overhead flights, and encouraging the audience to #LookUp.

This campaign represented digital on a massive scale in an iconic public space and driven by technology that drew on flight path data to merge digital creatives with live events in the outdoor environment. This kind of public spectacle is something that only OOH can bring to the digital format and it really is incredibly impactful.

Hello London

Hello London is a partnership between Transport for London (TFL) and Exterion Media which saw the installation of a digital display network through key London sites. It included next generation digital escalator panels and Ultra HD digital ribbons, which tapped into anonymised O2 mobile user data to deliver customised campaigns targeting audiences across their underground journeys.

The datasets included details relating to commuter entry/exit data, demographic segmentation, interests, home location, and the times of day at which they were likely to travel.

What we are seeing is the emergence of 360° targeted OOH networks where there is an increased coordination of creatives to reduce clutter, and offer hyper-targeted, time-specific campaigns that can be switched up at a moments notice. A digital takeover of an OOH network is now pretty much available at the flick of a switch.

And as the technology and digital systems that underpin this brave new world become increasingly ubiquitous and affordable, a picture is emerging of a digital arena permanently transformed and reinvigorated by out-of-home.