Clear Channel Outdoor is one of the world’s leading out-of-home media owners. Across their large, diverse out-of-home portfolio of half a million sites in 22 countries throughout Europe, Asia, USA and Latin America, they boost brands by connecting them with the people they want to reach, with media and ideas that enlighten, entertain, charm, challenge and influence. In the UK alone, they operate more than 35,000 sites nationwide, from Inverness in Scotland to Truro in Cornwall and in every major urban area in between.
Programmatic buying has revolutionised the buying process in many key media sectors and Clear Channel believe it will do the same for out-of-home. At the heart of Clear Channel’s strategy is making it easier to buy their products to help increase their medium’s share of the overall advertising market. They wanted to make their media simpler to plan, buy, optimise and measure through new digital channels. The aim was to offer new and existing customers the access, measurability, creativity and flexibility they demand. This would enable brands to deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time. It would connect them even more effectively with their audience – whilst still allowing them to achieve the mass reach and fame out-of-home delivers more efficiently than any other medium.
The inception and delivery of the new solution was led by Riverflex to enable automated trading and programmatic buying. The first iteration focused on trading inventory on an automated guaranteed basis – giving media buyers the ability to reserve a fixed volume of inventory at a fixed price. Customers would be able to access and buy audience-based packages across Clear Channel’s digital out-of-home (DOOH) network in the city of Brussels, via channels that include a Demand Side Platform (DSP) and a proprietary Clear Channel platform. The system would be fuelled by data from existing out-of-home audience data-sets – both proprietary and third party. By offering solutions based on audience, using buying tools and technologies with which media buyers are already familiar, Clear Channel’s programmatic solution would significantly simplify the process of buying out-of-home.
The solution that was defined was based on a loosely-coupled microservice approach with a user interface and set of APIs that would be accessible to both; internal users such as sales and operations; as well as externally to customers looking to plan and buy advertising campaigns.
The high-level view of various services in the end-end buying journey is shown below. This captures the significant complexity in integrating these together to deliver a seamless user experience for external media buyers.
A cloud-first approach was followed to enable the requirement to deliver at pace and scale quickly. AWS was used due to the maturity of the offering at the time, access to specific vendor-specific SaaS capabilities and greater access to developer skills to scale the platform going forward. The solution was built with a fully automated CI / CD pipeline and an automated testing approach was followed to ensure quality and efficiency.
We identified that one of the requirements of the application would be for its components to remain flexible as it evolves and the capacity to scale components independently. A microservices architecture provides this flexibility and allows components to be efficiently built in parallel. The application is composed of four layers, as shown below:
Access to the services is controlled and managed at the boundary to provide security, manage client or consumer specifics and manage volumes and throughput.
Each component in the backend is a service. The services execute most of the application’s business logic: They generally own one or more resources, and they connect to the data layer to execute different actions (Get, Post, Put, Delete, Patch) on them. As shown in Figure below, the services are developed with the CQRS pattern to decouple the Read and Write operations; this allows to scale asymmetrically and to represent the model differently whether reading or writing on its resource. Each service can connect to the Data Layer and other services. This way, they can perform synchronous operations on its controlled resource but also by reading or writing on others. They also can publish or listen to events on the PubSub to trigger or process asynchronous operations.
The application platform includes all the elements that support its operation, such as Monitoring, Logging, Build Servers, PubSub and VMs among others.
Since the Belgian programmatic platform went live media buyers have bought digital-out-of-home campaigns on the platform for major advertisers including Deliveroo and Mercedes-Benz. The platform has been used by media buyers such as Kinetic, 449 Space, Posterscope, Outsight and Outdoor Service. Launching this Minimum Viable Product took five months from kick-off to the first customer placing an order on the solution. This proves the pace that a team can work at with the right experts following the modern agile approaches utilising cloud based technologies.
This platform launch was the start of Clear Channel’s automation and programmatic journey. They have continued to add new inventory to these digital channels, to connect to media buyers automate the planning and buying process as well as connecting to programmatic SSPs and DSPs to generate incremental revenue. This has simplified the buying process significantly enabling a customer to get a quote for a brief in seconds rathe than hours or days in some instances.
The launch of our programmatic buying solution represents a pivotal moment not just for Clear Channel International, but in the evolution of out-of-home, which has truly completed its transformation into a 21st Century digital media.
Chairman and CEO of Clear Channel International
I’ve chosen to work with Riverflex as they are highly flexible, complementing Clear Channel staff with strong digital experts, and truly partnering with us to achieve the outcomes we need. They are not afraid to challenge our thinking and do things differently, really striving to champion digital approaches like agile and lean and to make a lasting impact on our business.
Chief Digital Transformation Officer and CIO of 2017