Clear Channel Outdoor is one of the world’s largest outdoor advertising companies with more than 675,000 displays reaching more than half a billion people in more than 40 countries on five continents each month.

Clear Channel Outdoor

How one of the world's largest outdoor advertising companies modernized the billboard experience

What’s behind the billboard that you drive past every day?

Traditionally, the lifecycle of an outdoor ad unit is heavily dependent upon a series of manual and paper-based processes. From sales to operations to client communications, it takes many steps by many people to sell an ad and get it installed on a billboard. However, the world’s oldest advertising industry has much to learn from the world’s newest — digital.

For over 110 years, Clear Channel Outdoor has helped to build brands and shape the out-of-home advertising industry, today reaching more than half a billion people per month globally. Inspired by the digital advertising model, the company has begun shifting their legacy processes and systems to increase efficiency and boost sales. Their long-term goal is to digitize their outdoor advertising business, including inventory access and purchase, centralized digital asset management, and automated communications.

APIs Drive the Digital Transformation

Clear Channel partnered with us from 2014 to 2020, to help them strategize and build out their digital vision. We have significant experience using Salesforce and Heroku. Based on these two areas of expertise, one project team was tasked with architecting and developing complex sales tools using the Salesforce platform. A second team focused on developing custom APIs and Apps on the Heroku platform, a part of Salesforce App Cloud, for Clear Channel’s new digital inventory sales and management system.

Together with Kilterset, Clear Channel Outdoor built foundational APIs running on Heroku that consolidate and securely manage data from the company’s legacy systems. These APIs comprise the canonical source of truth for business data, and they broker data interchange and messages for back-end systems to consume. For example, when new inventory becomes available in a legacy system, real-time messaging to the API allows it to be exposed right away to API consumers and Apps running on Heroku. The new custom API platform is allowing Clear Channel to rethink how its data is organized to align better with the company’s current way of thinking and longer-term strategy.

“We’re investing in Heroku because its cloud-based platform allows us to be agile and incremental in our approach to development. Without the worry of infrastructure, we’ve increased our efficiency and deployment speed, and are achieving our goals faster than ever.”
Alex Porter
VP of Product Development
Clear Channel Outdoor

Clear channel outdoor dashboard

We preferred to build Clear Channel’s apps with high-speed, high-concurrency requirements in Go, and the less concurrent core apps in Ruby.  Their front-end apps are usually written in pure JavaScript, and most of the Clear Channel apps were built using React.

Identity management is handled by Auth0, using SAML-based authentication and ADFS endpoints for internal users. The team uses AWS, SQS, and SNS heavily to broadcast data that users are interested in via pub/sub mechanisms. They chose a range of Heroku Add-ons to extend their apps, including: Heroku Postgres database, Heroku Private Spaces, New Relic APM for monitoring, Papertrail for logging, Sentry for real-time crash reporting. Clear Channel’s new inventory apps connect to Salesforce using Salesforce APIs, and SQS for message management.

User-Centric API-Driven Apps

Clear Channel is replacing paper-based processes with consumer-grade custom apps running on Heroku for employees and customers. We helped Clear Channel design and build apps that are simple, purposeful and even fun to use. New apps range from enabling employees to explore billboard inventory in their market; managing the day-to-day work of operations who maintain billboards and install new ads; and wowing customers with a showcase of their ad-campaigns up and running on Clear Channel’s billboards.

The new apps have given employees a new level of visibility into the company’s data, making it possible to check inventory or view photos of a current ad campaign in real-time on desktop and even on mobile.