Advertisers demand transparency in 2018? Blockchain to the rescue!

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All the talk of the recent cryptocurrency crash and Bitcoin briefly dropping below $10,000 (and losing tens of billions of dollars in value) completely misses the point!

Sure, cryptocurrencies are disrupting the world’s financial system (whether big banks or governments like it or not).

But what’s more interesting is how blockchain technologies are on the cusp of disrupting many other industries, chief among them – advertising! 

That’s why, as both an advertising technology executive and blockchain enthusiast, I was delighted to represent AnyClip in the IAB’s new blockchain working group, which convened for the first time last week.

Our mission is “to investigate the application of blockchain technology to address challenges in the digital advertising space and to develop standards and best practices for the utilization of blockchain technology.”

It’s a reasonable assumption that advertisers will continue riding their (partial) wins in 2017 in the battle for greater transparency. Specifically, the IAB was able to introduce and evangelize the ads.txt standard quite well (possibly beyond expectations) and sees itself playing a major role in pushing blockchain technologies to provide further transparency.

Others like GroupM, Comcast, Hulu, MetaX, Premion (Tegna), NYIAX, Kochava, MadHive, and others, have blockchain plans of their own.

And there are even blockchain agencies now, such as London-based Truth, which is trying to reinvent the media buying and eliminate questionable hidden rebates in the process.

The shared vision is that media buying will be based on a new, decentralized open-source network. This network will provide advertisers greater levels of trust, security, fraud detection, and the overall transparency they demand.

Such a blockchain network can either be private (by invite only) or public (think Bitcoin).

Ads.txt could be incorporated into the blockchain flow, becoming a new “ads.txt plus” standard, if you will.

I/Os would become obsolete – completely replaced by smart contracts that give more visibility to buyers.

You get it. The sky’s the limit.

And the timing couldn’t be better because of two other hot adtech trends – OTT and GDPR.

OTT – Blockchain ad buying can be incorporated into existing programmatic networks, of course, but also into the emerging ad buying platforms developed for streaming TV and broadcast TV.

GDPR –

  1. As the entire industry scrambles with GDPR compliance (only four months away), blockchain tech can provide an audit record. It may even become the standard for this, assuming that enforcement mechanisms can adapt.
  2. Perhaps more interestingly, GDPR is a symptom of a bigger advertising problem, which is the pushback from users against ads (think ad blockers). That’s why GDPR requires that publishers receive user consent. But imagine if we could provide users value related to the blockchain network (perhaps cryptocurrency) for opting in or for viewing ads? This is farther off but could be a real gamechanger.

The challenges are enormous. The exact terms, cost, speed, adoption levels, and complex legal challenges, to name a few, need to be figured out.

Looming over these is the question of how the Duopoly will react. Will Google and Facebook allow such a disruption? Could such a network even exist and catch on without their explicit blessing or active involvement?

Many questions need to be answered, and yet, everyone in the working group — publishers, advertisers, and technology companies alike — agree that blockchain will disrupt the advertising market. The question is when.

If I were a betting man (and you already know that I am, at least on blockchain), I’d bet that blockchain will disrupt ad-tech sooner than we think.  

Buckle up!