Blockchain is one of the fastest-growing technologies in today’s digital world that have come into the limelight in the last few years. We have heard that blockchain technology has revolutionized banking, finance, real estate, food, automotive, sports, and many other sectors.
However, blockchain technology is disrupting the various industries and its disruption effects have touched the advertising industry.
The advertising industry is the global industry of public relations and marketing companies, media services, and advertising agencies.
In fact, advertising is a marketing tactic involving paying for space to promote a product, service, or cause. The actual promotional messages are called advertisements, or ads for short.
But, in today’s world, digital advertising, which includes many technologies, media, and telecom firms, is facing new problems that require new solutions.
Blockchain could be the answer to such type of problems. It could enable real-time, trusted data, while providing consumers with more relevant ads and stronger privacy rights.
It is estimated that digital advertising is expected to climb to $427.26 billion by 2022 and the blockchain market is expected to reach over $23.3 billion by 2023 and $176 billion industry by 2025.
In this article, we are going to discuss how blockchain is going to impact the digital advertising industry.
Why is Blockchain Technology entering into Digital Advertising?
Image: Power Media
The industry space opened up for blockchain when data inflation and data discrepancy news surfaced online, advertisers and publishers started looking for a better alternative for transparency.
Advertising platforms like Facebook Ads, Google Ads, and others, were enjoying the monopoly in the digital advertising place since the last decade. These advertising giants were manipulating the data and information to make a huge profit margin.
Blockchain Applications in Digital Advertising
Ad buying and selling without the mediator: No intermediaries will be benefitted by employing blockchain-powered online advertising platforms. Blockchain is solving the transparencies and trust issues the ad tech industry has.
Fraud prevention and transparency in the ad supply chain: It’s very difficult to find the fraudulent clicks and impressions you are paying for. Blockchain technology integrated with the tools helps find and flag sites with click discrepancy and bot infiltration which would flow the ad budget to the right sites with genuine clicks.
Targeting the right audience: Driving an ad campaign according to their customer journey is important. With the help of blockchain, ad tech platforms can automate campaigns based on the specified set of rules. If the audience falls into those certain criteria, then only an ad will be visible to them. By doing this, advertisers can utilize the budget on better sites to show ads. Audience engagement will be credible now with very much accurate data that will help design better campaigns. The leads and subscriptions would be genuine and identifiable.
Data management: Data and insights play a key role in drafting a great campaign strategy. Blockchain makes it simple to retrieve the right KPIs utilize the data for better decision making.
Customize ad delivery: No one likes to see the same ads multiple times and increase ad fatigue. But, advertisers were not able to control the delivery of the ads in most of the top advertising platforms. With blockchain, advertisers will be given control to limit the ad frequency according to their campaign objectives.
Social media ads: A lot of fake news used to surface online through social media channels, now it can be controlled as blockchain technology is the distributed system is highly transparent and trackable. It can limit the social media ad frauds.
Data safety: Data safety and privacy is a major challenge in the digital advertising industry. The users browsing behavior is no longer the reason you serve your ads to them. Now, audience permission is required to use their personal data. A lot of countries are taking initiatives to stop the illegal practices. Security compliance like GDPR, CCPA, HIPAA, and a lot more came into the picture for data privacy and safety.
Ad-verification: Blockchain reduced the role of third-party platforms to verify ads if they comply with the guidelines and save a lot of time for the advertisers.
Ad automation: Ad auctioning process and more easy and transparent with the help of blockchain-based advertising platforms. The ads will now be more effective and relevant.
Content management: The delivery of the content is more data-driven and accurate with blockchain. Content monetization, content personalization, content discovery, and content creation would be easier in these blockchain technology ad platforms.
Challenges Ad Buyers, Publishers, and Customers face
Let’s see, how ad buyers, publishers, and customers face many challenges:
The ad buyer’s challenges:
Lack of trust
Rising customer expectations
Inability to mine current metrics
The publisher’s challenges:
Lack of trusted, transparent, metrics
Need to improve the customer experience
Risk of compromising
The expensive, manual, time-consuming effort
The customer’s challenges:
Poor customer experience –
Lack of control over personal data
Lack of trust
Lack of education
Benefits of Blockchain in the Digital Advertising Industry
Image: CU Management
Accountability and transparency are required in the digital advertising ecosystem across the globe. Blockchain brings that trust factor to the table. With the help of blockchain ad tech vendors are now able to show the comprehensive actionable view of the ad distribution and transactions.
For every advertiser, data is the key to define their business success. With blockchain now, the advertisers receive the right high-quality data and reduce the chances of its alteration because of the distributed ledger approach.
The cost of the transaction is reduced significantly by removing various payment gateway platforms. Blockchain-powered ad platforms assure safe transactions while maintaining users’ anonymity.
Companies using Blockchain in Advertising Industry
Here are some companies working with blockchain in advertising industry. Let’s take a look!
AdNode: AdNode is the New York-based marketing and advertising company, whose goal is to bring accountability to digital marketing. The company is a decentralized solution designed to create a reconciliation of ad delivery in real-time while eliminating the uncertainty of good delivery. AdNode’s platform integrates with the advertiser’s existing ad measurement vendors, automatically generates invoices, and enables marketers to seamlessly reallocate budgets to their top-quartile performers. The company minimizes friction in digital advertising, especially for programmatic preferred and direct campaigns. It is running pilot programs with well-known advertisers and publishers. An appealing aspect of AdNode’s model is that there is no fee to clients or agencies. The platform’s revenue stream is based exclusively on publisher fees.
AdsDax: AdsDax is a mobile advertising platform and marketplace that leverages blockchain technology to reinvent the ad industry. The platform focuses on mobile rich-media campaigns solving four problems: Fraud, Transparency, consumer data privacy, and consumers’ connection to brands. They do this by sending ad data from their device directly to the blockchain where is verified and validated by third parties. This transparent data is available to the advertiser almost immediately by allowing them to review what was bought in real-time, so they can spend their dollars more efficiently. Finally, they reward publishers for high-quality inventory.
“Over the course of the campaign, 2.3 million mobile device users interacted with the advertisement, and AdsDax was able to directly track all user engagements from user’s mobile devices on a public blockchain. By using a blockchain tracking layer, advertisers were able to more clearly see progress towards their campaign goals.”
Amino Payments: Amino Payments is a payments company that combines technologies from blockchain, payments, and advertising to bring transparency to online advertising. Founded in 2017, the company records every transaction made to help media buyers track exactly where and when money is being spent with each vendor. This exposes and eliminates any hidden costs in media buying contracts, as the negotiator, in this case, is the blockchain itself rather than the companies hoping to profit. Some of the world’s largest and forward-thinking brands, agencies, and ad tech partners have joined the Amino Network to say “enough.” An interesting application of Amino’s solution is the ability to determine the actual amount of money lost to fraud and waste. In a campaign with Nestlé, Integral Ad Science found 3.77% of impressions to be outside of brand safety guidelines. In a typical campaign, Nestlé would receive credit for about 3.77% of spend in order to compensate for those unsafe impressions. However, by using Amino Payments, Nestlé was able to see the exact cost of each unsafe impression which, in total, represented 9.23% of spend. By layering impression-level financial transparency with verification data, Nestlé was able to save 5.46% more than what they would have saved without Amino Payments.
Will Luttrell, the CEO of Amino, said:
“There is a solution that will eliminate ad fraud. Not mitigate, not suppress, not investigate: eliminate. It does not involve a new wave of super-sophisticated fraud detection wizardry — I’ve built a lot of that (and hats off to my allies still fighting in the trenches at the verification companies and teams at Google and other places.) Amino’s solution gives brands a simple, complete view of the money trail all the way down to publishers and data vendors. Fraud is made possible when money can be hidden. Transparency solves fraud. That technology is here, right now.”
Blockchain4Media: Blockchain4Media is a Los Angeles-based marketing and advertising company that addresses verification, reliability, and value. The company helps clean up the digital ecosystem with the next generation of digital ad verification, multi-level ad viewability, and guaranteed value for your digital media investments. They provide transparency into the details of each ad placement with blockchain as the final source of truth for each transaction. Their CPMH™ (Cost Per Thousand Humans) approach to media buying accountability offers brands and advertisers a way to ensure they are only buying media seen by human beings. Their technology also identifies and provides publisher inventory quality insights and details. Blockchain4Media leverages the power of Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, and blockchain technologies to provide the most advanced media buying possible. Smart fraud detection, advanced levels of viewability, and validation of individual ad placement details allow real-time campaign optimization, cost savings, and higher ROI. Publishers also get viewability into their inventory quality to mitigate potential fraud issues. Blockchain4Media launched its first in the market pilot at the end of 2018 with one of the world’s largest CPG brands and electronics manufacturers. They identified almost 20% invalid and fraudulent traffic beyond the current in-market solution, and up to 76% fraudulent individual publisher activity.
Blockgraph: Blockgraph is a New York-based computer software company that is ushering in a better way of using audience data. It is an industry initiative led by Comcast’s FreeWheel, designed to make data usable across the TV ecosystem in a secure way. At the core of the initiative is the Blockgraph platform, a technology that enables advertisers and media companies to control, connect, and safely activate their data at-scale. It does this by allowing each data owner to keep control of their data while connecting into a shared identity layer without exposing any underlying data to third parties. Blockgraph hopes to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of data-driven TV advertising by supporting better planning, targeting, execution, and measurement across screens.
Jason Manningham, the General Manager of Blockgraph, said:
“Advertisers want the best of both worlds. They want to use data for their television buys like they do for their digital media buys, yet also get the quality content that TV provides. Fortunately, advertisers are extremely optimistic about what’s currently possible in data-driven TV buying and plan to use data on a growing portion of their TV ad spend going forward.”
Brave and their Basic Attention Token: Brave is a free and open-source web browser that is developed by Brave Software, Inc. based on the Chromium web browser. It emphasizes security and privacy while not sacrificing features or performance. The browser protects consumers’ privacy and blocks ads. For those who choose to view ads, Brave rewards people for their attention with BAT (Basic Attention Token) and gives users a 70% cut. When consumers opt-in their identity remains anonymous and the platform’s blockchain capabilities are able to record accurate and secure data on the consumer’s engagement for publishers. It is a balance on fraud protection for advertisers and ethical ad targeting that protects the consumer and allows them to control their permissions. Brave’s BAT was one of the more well known and early ICO’s in the ecosystem. Brave started opened up its advertising platform in April. By May over 1,300 advertisers were on the waiting list. The ads show up as “notifications” in your browser and click on a new tab.
Fenestra: Headquartered in the UK, Fenestra focuses on media supply chain transparency for programmatic transactions. These transactions can be recorded, verified, and reconciled in a trusted environment, based on HyperLedger Fabric, giving advertisers greater performance from their media investment and an accompanying suite of proprietary supply-path optimization tools. Fenestra delivered its first platform product focused on transparency in programmatic supply-chains in late 2018. The business now counts leading programmatic vendors such as Adobe, Amobee, Oath, Sonobi, and MiQ as data partners. Since launch, the business has been partnering with an accelerating group of digital agencies and advertisers to deliver greater trust and transparency on a cross-platform basis.”
IBM: IBM has a deep affinity towards Hyperledger, which is an open-source blockchain protocol started by the Linux foundation in which IBM was an early supporter of. Their latest efforts include partnering with Mediaocean to launch a blockchain-backed planning tool to give agencies full transparency into the full lifecycle of their spending. This allows advertisers to have an ROI based spend, fee transparency, uncover fraud, and measure ad viewability. There was press around their consortium of partners that have signed on, including a pilot with Unilever.
Image: Web Entangled
Kiip: Kiip is a mobile advertising network, co-founded by Brian Wong, Courtney Guertin, and Amadeus Demarzi in 2010. Instead of digital rewards, Kiip provides consumers with tangible rewards, like a bottle of water for every eight miles run by a user. It began as a rewarded advertising model on mobile. They evolved to a premium, “moments-based” ad model where brands can serve ads in moments of pause during app usage. Kiip’s partners are largely directly integrated app partners using SDK’s and tags, and so are able to get data transparency of delivery parallel to other pixel trackers from ad servers. With this transparency, they launched a blockchain-based product called Single Ledger which records ad delivery data down to the impression on Ethereum. They also leveraged Single Ledger to manage media upfronts in the form of an ad bank that leverages tokens on Ethereum as well. They launched a pilot campaign with AB InBev last year at Advertising Week and have been working with more than 20% of their LIVE campaigns on leveraging Single Ledger’s capabilities. They also worked with a large top 5 agency holding company to show transparency of their ad spend against a media bank balance on an Ethereum wallet – effectively using the same transparency principle to show a media agency how every dollar in their upfront was being spent, recorded on-ledger.
Lucidity: Lucidity is a California-based digital advertising blockchain protocol bringing transparency and trust to digital advertising. The company focuses on bringing transparency and auditability to digital advertising analytics. Specifically, they use blockchain to match signals from important members of the supply chain – namely DSPs, SSPs, and verification vendors – in order to authenticate campaign data like impressions and clicks. This provides advertisers with a reliable set of data to understand what’s happening between parties, cut waste, and optimize their campaigns. Lucidity was named a partner of IBM’s Blockchain Accelerator program earlier this year. The company is also leading key initiatives with the IAB Tech Lab’s Blockchain Working Group. It was the first to release results from the IAB’s Blockchain Pilot Program, which included findings from more than a dozen brands that benefitted from having the ability to uncover high rates of impression and click discrepancies in their programmatic buys.
MadHive: MadHive is a New York-based end-to-end advanced advertising solution for digital video that leverages cryptography, blockchain, and AI to optimize business outcomes and deliver evidence-based accountability. MadHive’s ad platform allows broadcast networks to sell linear advertising alongside OTT inventory, as well as providing brands with planning, targeting, measuring, and optimizing tools across cross-platform linear and OTT campaigns in real-time.
NYIAX: NYIAX is a New York-based advanced contract management and upfront marketplace, which is known for its NASDAQ backing, and utilizes the “NASDAQ Financial Matching Engine” in its technology. The platform’s focus is on activating “upfronts every day”, which provides programmatic delivery of direct-to-publisher, guaranteed contracts through their advanced contract management platform. In other words, a true private marketplace, leveraging blockchain to ensure compliance across contracts and bring transparency to the supply chain. This also helps publishers understand with predictability quarterly or yearly what rates and inventory are being purchased, whilst seeing these orders minted on the blockchain. NYIAX is running limited pilots with top publishers and top brands through their holding company relationships. In Cannes they announced an exclusive partnership with IPONWeb, providing the front-end trading platform to access the “curated supply” from IPONWeb’s newly launched MediaGrid’s infrastructure.
Rebel Ai: Rebel Ai is a Colorado-based advertising company, protects publisher identity, secures brand spend, and establishes the foundations for blockchain in advertising. The company seeks to eliminate domain spoofing by cryptographically sealing advertisers creative with a public/private key combination. They create a unique ID for every publisher so the advertiser creative only appears on the true domain. Their technology sniffs out pixels and JS scripts on websites to understand the flow of ads and to detect all middlemen in the process. This leads to their blockchain solution by using the classic elements of the ledger, smart contracts, and consensus to verify if the parties in that supply chain are who you want it to be. Rebel AI has worked with both US and EU brands, agencies, and publishers to run encrypted display and video campaigns in order to detect domain spoofing. These campaigns uncovered rates of up to 30% in the open exchange and 15% in private marketplaces.
Ternio: Ternio is a platform to move money instantly. Ternio gives blockchain and cryptocurrency real-world applications. The platform has built a highly scalable blockchain that enables brands and advertisers to independently log every unique ad impression they purchase on a chain – all transacted in a programmatic environment. This gives the brand or ad agency first-hand insight into the amount paid for the ad, how many brokers were involved in the transmission, and if they are the victim of double-dipping. It also opens up the door for a real-time, instant payment tied to a smart contract. Ternio has partnered with Amazon’s AWS to deploy its advertising at scale. It will be interesting to see if Amazon’s purchase of Sizmek allows for additional transparency for Sizmek’s clients.
These companies are focused on five programmatic advertising challenges:
Removing the $42 billion of yearly ad fraud
Providing transparency into the media supply chain to increase efficiency by removing middlemen
Reconciling billing and third-party ad verification to save hours of time
Protecting consumer’s privacy
Rewarding consumers or publishers for the value they provide
Overcoming Obstacles to a Digital Advertising Blockchain
The biggest obstacles that digital advertising stakeholders must overcome include:
In advertising, data is the product: Companies, fearful of losing the intellectual property that defines them, may require extensive convincing before they trust blockchain.
A vast, complex ecosystem: A highly fragmented industry will have to collaborate on how to authenticate digital identities, properties, and impressions.
The rapid pace of innovation: A digital advertising blockchain will need to be adaptable and scalable to work with new processes, products, as well as evolving data and measurement standards.
Misaligned interests: Many ecosystem participants have competing interests.
The need for consumer buy-in: Consumers may not agree to share their data.
Speed and size: Most industry applications will need both low latency and extremely high volume, without sacrificing privacy or security.
Multiple pressure points for regulations: A blockchain with sensitive data flowing through so many connections will need impeccable, agile compliance.
Future of Digital Advertising Industry
It will be too early to say if this could stop the whole of digital advertising scandals, ad frauds, and bot traffic. But, definitely, blockchain is impacting the digital advertising ecosystem positively and gradually. Ad tech giants like Google are adapting the blockchain-powered tools to enhance their functionality.
It’s time to show zero tolerance for the ad frauds, data alteration, and data breaches. The companies considering an upgrade to their advertising platform with blockchain will lead the way going forward, and it’s time you added your business to this roster.
Kat Howcroft, the Senior Media and Budget Manager at McDonald’s, said:
“This technology offers us the opportunity to see a truly transparent picture of our investment across the digital supply chain. We are also eager to understand the potential impact that this may have on our ROI and efficiency.”
Babs Rangaiah, the Global Marketing of IBM iX, said:
“Blockchain is creating new ways of doing business across industries, particularly where greater trust and transparency are required. As it relates to media, we expect blockchain to be able to provide a single source of truth to any given media buy, eliminating the doubt and uncertainty that is common today.”
Blockchain in advertising may have limitations, but its utility is starting to become clearer and many more key players in the ecosystem are beginning to adopt and to test it. Given all the issues we’re facing in our industry, blockchain seems to be the most unbiased way to reconcile consumer concerns with ad delivery right now.
As more companies convert to transparency and privacy-first model through the use of blockchain, we’ll see more results and happier customers and advertisers.
Cover Image: European Business Magazine