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Broadsign CEO Smith: “The Most Fun I’ve Had in My Life”

Montreal | invidis met Burr Smith – President, CEO, and owner of Broadsign via his family office Jedfam – at the company’s headquarters in Montreal. The Canadian DooH platform provider employs more than 270 people worldwide and drives almost 400,000 screens. On the occasion of the company’s 20th anniversary, Smith passionately explains his vision to us: Broadsign aims to transform the way brands buy, sell and target out-of-home advertising.  

In December, the metropolis of Montreal with its four million inhabitants reveals its most enchanting self: covered in deep snow, crispy cold, sunny and in the evening hours with colorful, glowing art. The OoH platform operator Broadsign, which has renovated its company headquarters in the city center to celebrate its 20th anniversary, has also spruced itself up.

More than 120 of the 270 employees worldwide work in Montreal, most of them are back in the office again at least part-time. The newly renovated Broadsign office was designed for our new hybrid reality and feels like the hip work havens from Google, Meta & Co. In addition to the HQ in Montreal, Broadsign staff are based in European offices in Germany and Spain as well as in Australia.

CEO and owner of Broadsign is Burr Smith. Under his leadership, the Canadian solution provider has grown into the leading End-to-End OoH platform: almost 400,000 DooH displays in 85 countries run on Broadsign, and a total of one million out-of-home advertising faces are managed and controlled via the platform. Many of the major OoH providers rely on Broadsign solutions, including JC Decaux, Ströer and Clear Channel.

Europe as the world’s most innovative OoH market

“North America is a huge market: massive scale alone is enough to operate digital out-of-home profitably,” says Burr Smith. “Europe, the world’s most innovative OoH market, is completely different. Like in Australia, only those who continuously reinvent themselves are successful in this industry, as each national market has its own rules, roles of agencies and market participants differ. Broadsign’s success is built on providing a platform toolbox where every media owner can find the right solution mix.”

Broadsign serves customers in 85 countries and plans to increase its presence in Asia soon. The company generates 40 percent of its business with European and North American customers respectively, and approximately 10 percent in the Australia / New Zealand region. 

From CMS to platform in 20 years

In 2006, Burr and his family started investing into Broadsign. “Broadsign always had great technology and the company’s SaaS business model was very revolutionary for that time.” But apart from a handful of customers, the company was struggling. It had run into financial difficulties, “potential customers were worried that Broadsign would not survive in the market in the long term”.  

With a full takeover in 2012, Burr Smith was able to put the company on a sound financial footing. Another change in strategy in 2017 laid the foundations for today’s success. “Until then, Broadsign was just a CMS provider. There was a legitimate concern that we were too small and insignificant for our larger customers, as pure CMS solutions are highly standardized and interchangeable.”


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Broadsign claims market leadership – both for posters and screens

“We decided to transform the CMS into a platform for which third-party providers would develop new solutions,” says Burr Smith. “The second important decision was that we focused on the potential of programmatic for DooH early on.” In the following years, Broadsign acquired third-party providers Ayuda and Campsite in order to have full control over business-critical solutions. Today, the platform offers everything OoH customers need for OoH management – whether for static or digital screens. Burr Smith is convinced: “We have the best solution on the market.”

The growth of 700 percent (partly through acquisitions) in the last five years confirms the success. Today, Broadsign is a very healthy company; and the expansion now also includes static OoH. It’s quite unusual for a DooH solution provider to expand into the static OoH space. With Broadsign Static, OoH companies gain access to real-time inventory availability and media-independent workflows.

 “We pride ourselves on keeping all profits within the company. For us, Broadsign is a long-term affair of the heart that brings us a lot of joy.” The family is no longer thinking of selling the company. It takes up to four years to develop new products – private companies are better suited for long term invests without the hassles of quarterly reportings. “We are unique with our platform; and Broadsign has a rewarding corporate culture.”  

“OoH is still primitive compared to online”

Out-of-home is still lacking standards for carrying out automated transactions and workflows differ too much between stakeholders. “The industry is still primitive compared to online, but the potential is huge, as the growing market share shows,” says Burr Smith. 

Smith is not worried about the influence of global ad tech providers: “They have the scale, but cross-channel campaigns with OoH need specialists like us.” The programmatic market is also changing rapidly. “The market is sorting itself out, technology and requirements are changing rapidly.” Broadsign also has a DSP, but it is not offered in all markets. “We needed a DSP to enable a more complete End-to-End offering”  

Broadsign now climate-neutral

It’s not just the company that is close to Burr Smith’s heart; he is just as passionate about sustainability: “We are now carbon neutral. We have trimmed all our activities, including the global AWS infrastructure, and put in place a recurring process for quality offsets, to be carbon neutral.” 

“The most fun I’ve had in my life”

The tasks for the future are clear, according to Smith, OoH will gain further market share, once booking and playout become easier to manage. “We want to further automate and simplify the OoH industry,” says the Broadsign CEO.

“What the platform offers today is more than the sum of its parts. Running the company is the most fun I’ve had in my life.” 

After 90 minutes of face-to-face conversation, there is no doubt that Burr Smith still has big plans for Broadsign.