Clear Channel: Helping customers take charge of campaigns

Clear Channel International (CCI) is the Europe and Asia business division of Clear Channel Outdoor – one of the world’s largest outdoor media companies.

From bus shelters to billboards, airports to shopping malls, buses to trams, and a growing network of digital out-of-home panels, Clear Channel’s diverse portfolio of advertising solutions enables brands to connect with the audiences they want to reach.

For a media owner, it’s essential to make it as easy as possible for customers to view pricing and placement options – and place an order.

That’s less straightforward than it sounds, since the price of the product that the customer is buying is priced on a real-time basis when their quote is generated. The actual price is dependent on a wide variety of factors such as availability, times, dates (and more).

In other words, Clear Channel’s inventory is priced on a programmatic basis, with transactions taking place between the customer’s automated buying software (Demand-side Platforms, or DSPs) and Clear Channel’s own systems. This is within the wider context of Clear Channel’s move to a fully programmatic business model, enabling customers to plan, buy, optimise and measure the effectiveness of their campaigns, all within a single, simple, platform.

Suddenly, selling and buying that billboard space becomes a more complex prospect.

Organising a complex landscape

Prior to Equal Experts’ involvement, Clear Channel relied on two separate systems to do business: an order management system (that does pretty much what you’d expect it to), and a campaign management system (used to manage the ad creative that ends up filling the media space, and its scheduling).

The problem was that these systems existed in isolation, making it hard to synchronise orders with the details of the campaign concerned, or to compute the precise cost of an order at the time a quote is requested.

It also meant customers needed to contact Clear Channel to provide their specific campaign requirements, and negotiate the quote based on those requirements. These problems needed to be addressed as the business needed to scale, with the introduction of digital screens and the addition of new regions expanding the business. And that’s how Equal Experts came to work with the organisation.

Engineering a smoother buying experience

We were engaged to design and deliver an eCommerce portal that enables Clear Channel’s clients to browse products, check availability (and corresponding prices), and create, manage and cancel orders.

This work required us to provide a proprietary API, written to allow Clear Channel to make its systems available to more DSPs – in turn making it easier for customers to buy their products.

The price is right (now)

In October 2016, a distributed team of 11 Equal Experts consultants (eight in Pune, three in London) joined forces with five Clear Channel employees to begin development on the solution. We began with a workshop, which produced a set of prioritised stories, distilled from the wider business requirements, and then set about development in earnest. Our goal was to release the first version of the API (with minimum viable features) as soon as possible (it went live in January 2017).

This swift delivery was achieved with the team adopting a ceremony-light one week sprint cycle, embracing XP practices like TDD, Pair Programming, Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery. This ensured steady progress while maintaining high quality at all times – and meant that client feedback was looped back into the development process early and often.

Business features are decoupled and implemented via micro services (individually shipped as docker containers), with AWS is used for cloud infrastructure.

Less than six months after commencing work, together we achieved complete synchronisation between the two systems – achieving our vision of a more user-friendly customer experience, and significantly enhancing Clear Channel’s programmatic offering.