MarTech Interview with Burr Smith, CEO at BroadSign

MarTech Interview with Burr Smith, Chairman of the Board, President and CEO at BroadSign

“OOH used to be about buying media based on time and place, but with programmatic it’s more about buying an audience.”

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Could you tell us about your role and journey into Marketing Technology? What inspired you to join Broadsign?

I originally joined Broadsign as an investor early on. I liked the product, the company’s vision and its track record in the space. About five years ago, I decided to take a more active role as the CEO, and since then we’ve introduced several new products and added about 200 people to our team.

What is Broadsign and how does it fit into a modern technology stack?

Broadsign is a platform for buying, selling, and managing out-of-home media. It helps power the content you see on roadside billboards, digital mall kiosks, airport signs, and even interactive installations like the LinkNYC totems around New York City. Our technology powers approximately 425,000 signs worldwide.

There are two answers to the question of where we fit in a modern technology stack. The first is that we have a range of products that help OOH businesses manage and sell signage inventory for advertising. Our technology helps OOH businesses sell their inventory and automate the scheduling and delivery of content. It’s the foundation on which most of our customers build their business.

The second answer is that we’re providing a bridge between digital OOH businesses and digital media buyers who have typically stayed in the online world. Our platform puts OOH media inventory into the same DSPs that these people are using to buy their other digital media. It’s driving new interest and activity toward our space, and creating new opportunities for buyers to include OOH in Omnichannel buys.

Why is digital-out-of-home (DOOH) Marketing receiving so much attention recently and how does it play into the larger Digital Marketing ecosystem?

Marketing to modern consumers has become increasingly difficult in recent years amidst ad fatigue and blockers but DOOH gives marketers new, more targeted ways to reach their audience at the right place at the right time, not to mention it’s immune to ad blockers. This is in part why it’s been making headlines recently, but the growing number of screens has also contributed to the attention, with a huge number of OOH businesses converting their inventory from static to digital. Digital signs are everywhere from the grocery store to escalators, bus shelters, Times Square, office buildings, transit hubs, and so many more places.

Another factor driving interest in the medium is the availability of data feeds and out-of-the-box APIs. They’re allowing creative teams to create and deliver some pretty incredible campaigns that drive action with fewer technical barriers. With out-of-home inventory now also quickly being integrated into DSPs all over the world, we’re seeing a lot of Marketing teams from traditionally web and mobile backgrounds opting to integrate DOOH into multichannel campaigns. Then there are a handful of smaller trends contributing to the rapid rise of out-of-home today. It’s definitely a market to keep an eye on.

How has DOOH Marketing Technology evolved since you first started at Broadsign?

The biggest evolution has come through the industry’s embrace of programmatic media buying. DOOH used to be about buying media based on time and place, but with programmatic, it’s more about buying an audience. In addition, many other conditions such as street traffic, transit patterns, weather conditions, etc. can be used to determine when, where, how and what kind of content is displayed. It’s helping drive more audience-focused buys, where OOH messages will effectively move around with an audience in a less invasive way than we see in digital and mobile.

Why has it taken DOOH so long to embrace programmatic and what does it mean for the Digital Advertising industry moving forward?

There are a number of reasons, one being that our industry saw that online’s transition to programmatic wasn’t exactly smooth. Businesses struggled for a while before figuring out the best way to monetize their ad inventory. I think the concern among DOOH network owners was that they might similarly see a devaluation of their inventory.

Second, programmatic works best when you have great audience data standards in place. In programmatic DOOH, there is a near-infinite amount of data available, but how it is collected and categorized is still taking shape and will continue to evolve in the next few years. The industry is experimenting with a range of measurement methods, from anonymized visual sensors to WiFi detection, to data collected by organizations like the IAB and Media Rankings Council.

The DOOH industry is about to cross a major tipping point of sorts, as more network owners understand that programmatic is the key to making inventory more valuable, and they invest in getting the data they need to make programmatic work for them.

How big is Broadsign’s team and where are you located?

We’re close to 250 people at the moment and growing all the time. The bulk of our team is located in Montreal, Canada, but we have offices in New York, Toronto, Berlin, Sydney, and Shanghai. We also have small teams who work remotely across Europe.

Could you tell us more about Broadsign’s product roadmap?

We’re in an especially exciting time right now, thanks to recent acquisitions. Since the products from Ayuda, Broadsign, and Campsite all do different things well, we’ve seen a lot of interest from existing and potential customers in using the strongest elements of the various products to run their businesses. We’re going to be thinking hard about the best ways to do that in the weeks and months ahead. Our ultimate goal is to streamline how DOOH is bought and sold both programmatically and direct.

How will your recent acquisitions of Ayuda and Campsite impact the future of your products?

Prior to the acquisitions, Broadsign had a reputation as the leading digital out-of-home platform and Ayuda, the leading static out-of-home platform. Campsite, meanwhile, streamlined buying and selling programmatic DOOH with a beautiful, user-friendly interface. Those strengths under one roof form a complete package that can help all kinds of OOH businesses operate more efficiently and acquire more revenue, while also giving media buyers new opportunities to extend their digital campaigns to include DOOH. We’re going to keep working toward building on that all-encompassing capability in the future.

How do you approach partner integrations like the recent one with PlaceExchange? Tell us more about your technology partnership strategy.

We want to make our programmatic platform accessible to as many people as possible. Essentially our strategy is to team with DSPs and publishers around the world to deliver high-quality integrations that support this goal.

Which Marketing and Sales Automation tools and technologies do you currently use?

Our Marketing team uses HubSpot and our Sales team uses Salesforce. We have two-way integration between the two to ensure everything stays in sync and up-to-date.

What are your predictions on the most impactful disruptions in Digital Marketing technology for 2020?

With programmatic DOOH’s continued evolution, we’ll begin to see a convergence between traditional digital and DOOH advertising. And as the technology progresses, online and mobile marketers will be able to more easily include DOOH inventory in their purchases from a single interface, making planning for Omnichannel campaigns much more straightforward. Not only will campaign planning be easier, but we envision a world where buyers will be able to see all of their measurement and reporting across online, mobile and DOOH from one central hub. This will present a huge technological shift in how media planning and buying is done.

What startups in the technology industry are you monitoring closely and why?

As an investor, there are a few I’m watching, but none that I’m prepared to talk about right now.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a Business Leader?

In our industry, there are two different criteria are involved in growing this market. One is, simply, eliminating a lot of the friction that’s involved in publishing a campaign and automating some of the more tedious tasks in a transaction to reduce time that could be otherwise spent more productively. AI is an area that we are definitely exploring in terms of how it might help us achieve our larger goals.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

Technology runs in Broadsign’s DNA, so it doesn’t take much inspiration on my behalf. Most of the team at Broadsign has a passion for technology and that’s in part why they’re here. I do encourage employees to explore and keep up to date on the latest technology and the ways it can improve their lives at work and home.

One word that best describes how you work.

Hopefully “intensively.”

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Unfortunately, I can’t live without my cell phone, which is bad for my relationship with my spouse. Also, tools like LinkedIn, G Suite, Slack – basically all the communication and collaboration tools used by our business.

What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?

I don’t know that it’s a hack, but I along with the rest of the executive team at Broadsign, deal with urgent matters as quickly as possible, in no longer than 24 hours. Letting problems spin out of control can be a disaster, and it stings more when you realize the problems could have been avoided.

What are you currently reading?

“Ready Player One.” It paints a pretty dismal future, and I hope the world would never actually get that bad. I also picked up Powerful, by Patty McCord. She was the talent officer at Netflix. I always find it interesting to read about how different people run their companies, and the values that they teach and foster in their employees. Learning how they find ways to inspire their employees to become part of a functioning whole is also fascinating to me.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

My grandfather once told me that when you’re involved in a business, make sure you run scared every day because somebody’s always trying to do a better job than you. That’s one piece of advice I remember daily. Another thing he taught me is to never ask a question if you’re not sure you’re going to like the answer.

Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?

I try to work hard every day, and to put myself in the mind of the person we’re trying to represent and understand what’s important to them. I also try to treat people the way I would want to be treated if I was the person on the other side of the transaction.

Tag the one person (or more) in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read –

This is a tough one, and there’s a tie. I’d have to say Barry Frey, president and CEO of the Digital Place-based Advertising Association and Anna Bager, the new CEO of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America.

Thank you, Burr! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

As the Chairman, President and CEO at Broadsign, Burr is deeply invested in the company’s success and has a strong propensity for pursuing interesting opportunities and initiatives for the company.

He is highly involved in the digital signage industry and an active member of FEPE as well as the DPAA (Digital Place-Based Advertising Association) board. Burr has a keen eye for identifying trends that move the digital out-of-home industry forward. In addition to his role at Broadsign, Burr is the Manager of the Brisco-Davis Group, a position he has held for the past 17 years. Prior to this, he spent 15 years as Vice President of Sverdrup Investments Inc.

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We believe in a world where bold creativity inspires bright ideas. Where screens drive growth, build excitement and prompt innovation. Where digital interactions inspire conversations and connect communities. Where digital and real-life experiences collide.

We’re making it easier than ever for publishers, agencies and brands to harness the power of digital out-of-home and connect with audiences across the globe. Lighting up airports, shopping malls, health clinics, street corners and more, our platform powers screens at the heart of people’s lives.

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The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.

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