Published in Sep-Oct 2018
“Chain, Chain, Chain... Chain Of Fools” is not only a brilliant Aretha Franklin song (RIP), some say it also aptly describes Blockchain advertising; something that may have plenty of potential, but in its current form, is more like building “Castles In The Sand” (a Jimi Hendrix gem... I am on fire today!)
Well, to those naysayers, I say: “oh ye of little faith; brace yourself for the revolution...”
It is still unknown whether Blockchain’s creator is a single person or a group of people; all we know is they go by the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto – now that is a comic book villain waiting to happen.
Blockchain can be described as a decentralised, distributed and open public ledger, made up of a sequence of ‘blocks’ that are ‘chained’ via a cryptographic hash.
Confused? Let me simplify it a little bit.
Think of it as a crowd-sourced programme, where anyone can upload information but everyone keeps a check on things to ensure that the information is correct. Sound familiar? That’s because I have just described Wikipedia. Wikipedia and Blockchain technology have a lot in common.
Wikipedia is an online encyclopaedia, which although centralised on a single website, depends on the collaborative work of contributors known as wikipedians, to keep the website updated. This ability to add information and view previous edits is something Blockchain shares with Wikipedia. Wikipedia has handed over the role traditionally given to scholars of a given subject to the public. Similarly, Bitcoin has handed over the role of the intermediary traditionally given to banks and financial institutions to the public through Blockchain.
One of the failings of Bitcoin is that it does not exist in physical form, which means there is no such thing as a ‘refund’ after a purchase. If you wanted to return a product and get your money back, it would be treated as a new transaction, which means there would be deductions. However, unlike virtual money, on say a credit card, there are no additional fees. You pay the exact amount you owe to the other party; their ‘account’ is a set of randomly generated characters unique to each transaction. You have something akin to a PIN, number which you use to confirm the sale, and voila, it is done!
One of the failings of Bitcoin is that it does not exist in physical form, which means there is no such thing as a ‘refund’ after a purchase. If you wanted to return a product and get your money back, it would be treated as a new transaction, which means there would be deductions. However, unlike virtual money, on say a credit card, there are no additional fees.
These chains, where bitcoins exchange hands, are what we call a Blockchain. It is a pretty ingenious invention; originally meant to buy and sell Bitcoins and other crypto-currencies, it brought about the evolution of a new kind of internet, where digital information could be distributed but not copied.
Blockchain is particularly suited to any industry that is full of intermediaries, so no surprises that digital advertising may well be the first platform to reap the benefits of Blockchain.
With the rise of online advertising and massive amounts of money flowing through multiple platforms and payment processes, there are often multiple middlemen and inevitable delays – and in the process, leave out smaller publishers and new channels. Two recent initiatives have cemented Blockchain’s relevance. The first was in 2017, when Mindshare partnered with Zilliqa (a Blockchain-based payment processing and decentralised application platform) to help cut down fake news and counter privacy issues in advertising. The second initiative was earlier this year, when Kodak announced the launch of the KodakOne platform, which uses a digital ledger to protect the rights of ownership for photographers. This announcement more than tripled Kodak’s stock price.
Furthermore, early adopters (the beta testers) have begun to experiment with Blochchain and the results look promising. There have been proof-of-concept implementations and reports have claimed a reduction in fraud, costs and reporting time, as well as an improvement in reporting accuracy in the advertising supply chain. As more and more businesses opt for the Blockchain advertising route, traditional agencies will have to find ways to cut down on their costs and their asking prices if they want to stay in the game. Examples of early adopters include:
Two recent initiatives have cemented Blockchain’s relevance. The first was in 2017, when Mindshare partnered with Zilliqa (a Blockchain-based payment processing and decentralised application platform) to help cut down fake news and counter privacy issues in advertising. The second initiative was earlier this year, when Kodak announced the launch of the KodakOne platform, which uses a digital ledger to protect the rights of ownership for photographers.
AdChain: An open protocol on the public Ethereum Blockchain that helps people build decentralised digital advertising applications.
AdEX: A decentralised ad network based on Blockchain and smart contract technology.
Basic Attention Token: A token that can be exchanged between publishers, advertisers and users on the Ethereum Blockchain.
Bitclave: A decentralised search engine powered by Blockchain that compensates users rather than advertisers.
Indahash: An influencer tech platform that launched a crypto-currency in 2017 with which brands can pay influencers.
KR8OS: A marketing analytics and attribution platform built on Blockchain.
LeadCoin: A Blockchain network that allows companies to sell unused leads to others.
MadHive: A decentralised ad network built on Blockchain and a platform for data exchange and collaboration.
Mavin: A micro-influencer network that is due to launch its own Blockchain coin in the coming weeks.
MetaX: A company that builds Blockchain-based protocols and decentralised applications for digital advertisers and publishers.
Papyrus: A decentralised online advertising ecosystem that uses Blockchain and aims to improve the programmatic advertising industry.
Provenance: Uses Blockchain to help producers, suppliers and retailers to track and monitor supply chains.
Status: A decentralised mobile OS with built-in chat and wallet functionality.
Truth: A media agency built on Blockchain technology which promises advertisers full transparency.
Jeremy Epstein, former VP Marketing, Sprinklr, a social experience platform, firmly believes Blockchain will usher in a new era for advertising. At the recent Martech conventions in San Jose, he spoke at length about all the great things that will come about, thanks to Blockchain. In his view, everything will eventually be tokenised, including consumer attention, thereby encouraging them to visit ad pages in order to earn more tokens. Whether or not this will come to be, what is certain is that Blockchain is here to stay and things are about to change.
Nyda Ahmad is a freelance writer. firstname.lastname@example.org