IT Digest Interview with Burr Smith, Chairman of the Board, President and CEO, Broadsign


“AdTech has fundamentally changed how businesses approach sales and marketing. It’s provided a data-driven approach to derive the most value from their advertising budgets and better engage with their core audiences.”

Hi, Burr, could you tell us about your professional journey so far?

I began my career as a private practice tax lawyer and then moved on to an engineering firm, where I realized that I no longer wanted to work in law. Business was a passion, so I began looking at industries – like parking, hotels, and real estate – that I developed experience in over time. I ultimately formed my own investment company, and my family joined me. In 2008, Broadsign came to my attention. It was an intriguing business with room for growth, so I invested in the company. After a few turbulent years, I took control of the company and assumed the position of CEO in 2014. 

Broadsign specialized in content management software (CMS), and consolidation in the industry was frequent at the time. This trend inspired us to expand beyond a CMS into programmatic digital-out-of-home (pDOOH), a relatively new frontier then, and build tools on top of our existing software stack to automate OOH workflows. Moving in this direction has allowed us to become more involved with every part of the OOH chain, ultimately helping us to build better products. It’s been an exciting ride, but our work is far from complete. 

What challenges did the COVID-19 pandemic pose for you and your team?

At the pandemic’s start, we braced for the worst and hoped for the best. Global lockdowns meant fewer people outside, where most of the industry’s business lives. The executive team took a voluntary pay cut, I stopped taking a salary, and many employees worked shorter weeks — a lot of the same actions our clients took. Maintaining morale was challenging, but we have a very strong corporate culture. 

Yet, OOH media owners and technology developers came together and began preparing for the light at the end of the tunnel. These preparations involved quite a bit of innovation and technology adoption to streamline processes and sell more inventory programmatically. In Q3 2020, we started to rebound, as programmatic revenue came back first in the U.S., followed by Europe in Q4; OOH was on the upswing again, and it was inspiring to see both our business and the industry weather the storm and emerge stronger than ever.

What sets Broadsign apart from the competition?

Every Broadsign employee, from the top down, lives by a shared set of values. We strive to make the best solutions while ensuring clients always receive top-notch service. Our entire team works to be reasonable, fair, and transparent in all our affairs and follow through on what we’ve said we’re going to do. We’ve found that consistently remaining true to these values is a unique attribute. 

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What are three things that business owners can do to optimize their digital outreach?

Optimizing digital outreach starts with understanding your customers and their audiences. To do so, however, business owners require the right audience data. Once a business understands its client and audience, it’s a matter of exploring technology that can help automate and streamline operations for your client and their customers. 

How, according to you, has AdTech impacted the traditional sales and marketing funnels?

AdTech has fundamentally changed how businesses approach sales and marketing. It’s provided a data-driven approach to derive the most value from their advertising budgets and better engage with their core audiences.

At the same time, it’s broadened the available channels a business can leverage to reach its clientele. In this respect, ad tech has paved the way for omnichannel strategies that blend traditional print and TV approaches with online and mobile, CTV, audio, and OOH to reach consumers at multiple touchpoints in a less intrusive way. 

How do you envisage programmatic advertising reshaping the advertising industry in the years to come?

Programmatic has already drastically altered the ad industry, largely for the better. It has streamlined how ads are bought, sold, and measured. Online and mobile advertising may have been the first to adopt programmatic advertising. Still, OOH has doubled down on the automated transaction method, and newer mediums like CTV and podcasting are also investing in it. Evolutions in these spaces will only advance programmatic possibilities in the coming years. 

Looking at OOH specifically, programmatic encompasses real-time bidding and the digital delivery of negotiated transactions previously handled manually. In the coming years, I expect to see programmatic further streamline OOH campaign management and delivery in ways we have yet to uncover. OOH’s continued programmatic maturation will help inspire greater digitization of OOH inventory and spur new growth for the medium. All of these developments will drive OOH to become a larger slice of the overall digital advertising pie. 

What metrics do you use to define success?

Broadsign monitors three key success metrics. The first metric is financial performance, so maintaining operating margins allows us to reinvest in extending our offering. Employee engagement is the second; you can’t successfully run a company without employees who enjoy working for your business. A happy employee is often a productive employee. Finally, the third metric is customer satisfaction; listening to our clients’ needs and servicing them accordingly is good for business. 

What are the top five apps that you use for business operations?

We use standard business operations applications like Slack, Asana, Zoom, and Gmail for communications and project management, as well as Lattice and Bamboo for human resources. We’ve also built proprietary apps that provide insight into the programmatic side of our business. 

Name one other President and CEO that you would like to see featured here?

Jonathan Gudai, CEO, Adomni. 

What advice would you give to someone who wishes to pursue a career in the Marketing and Advertising industry?

Find a position or role within the industry that you enjoy and about which you’re passionate. If you don’t love what you do, you likely won’t do a good job. Second, immerse yourself in the field you’re pursuing, but don’t get so hyper-focused that you forget the bigger picture.

While you want to be an expert in your respective medium (online, digital, out of home, etc.), these channels are colliding. This means that understanding other channels can provide a competitive advantage. Seek out training programs that can get you up to speed. For DOOH, I highly recommend DOOHX, which offers an excellent overview of the space.

Finally, honesty and transparency are a must in this industry. If you are deceptive or play games, you’ll eventually be exposed and your credibility depleted. And, if you’re interested in OOH AdTech, Broadsign is hiring. You can check out available positions here. 

Thanks, Burr!

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Krutika is a digital marketing and content specialist with a passion for writing and understanding the latest trends in technology. She is an expert in creating marketing content that is not just informative but also compelling. She is a Tech and MarTech storyteller with a keen eye for smart business practices. Additionally, she is responsible for writing, creating, and executing content marketing campaigns to find new customers and keep the ones that we have already engaged. Krutika loves the mountains but when on the ground she loves to unwind with a great cup of tea and have a pumped up playtime session with her pet dog.