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Will Blockchains revolutionise the digital advertising industry?

Will Blockchains revolutionise the digital advertising industry?

Blockchains. They’ve been a hot topic and phrase de jour thrown around at marketing conferences and tech blogs throughout 2017. So much so, that you might be forgiven for thinking that it’s the next big disruptor to the digital advertising industry. And you may be right.

With global ad fraud expected to rise by an eye-watering £37.5 billion over the next decade, blockchains are being hailed as the tech solution that will revolutionise and protect the industry.

So why are digital marketers getting so excited about blockchains? And if blockchains are the solution and future, how else might they benefit student marketers at universities and beyond?

Let’s take a look.

For the uninitiated, what is a blockchain?

Blockchains first came about as an ingenious invention that allows data to be distributed but not copied. Without going into major geek-mode, the basic premise is that all computers are connected to a network, with decentralised ledgers and data storage. And If every advertiser and publisher could connect to the same blockchain ledger on that network, then every transaction of data would be visible and able to be validated.

The more users that join, the more stable the network and the faster the performance. The information exists as shared and encrypted and isn’t stored in any single location – meaning that the data is open source and verifiable. No centralised version of the data exists, so hackers can’t get their hands on it.

Blockchains aren’t brand new and the technology forms the backbone of major finance disruptor Bitcoin; tech commentators have gone as far as hailing it ‘the new internet’. Now users are finding new applications for it – with digital advertising a tantalising opportunity to apply the technology and solve a major industry headache.

OK cool, but how can this be applied to marketing?

There are four potential applications for applying a blockchain (in its current form) in digital advertising; more transparency, less fraud, opportunity for better management of consumer data and bidding automation.

Blockchains could be the revolutionary tool to help solve transparency and fraud within digital advertising – in part because it will act like a ledger in a distributed digital world. Every ‘transaction’, or data exchange, that occurs on a blockchain is accessible with complete transparency to everyone in the advertising supply chain, including which ad was viewed when, by who and on which platform or publisher.

Applied to digital advertising, open transparency and the collective validation of data would mean that publishers and advertisers are brought together in a new world order of advertising and programmatic based on trust and transparency. Both of which have been huge concerns for marketers in 2017 – an industry which has been rocked by brand safety issues on major platforms such as Facebook, Youtube and other mainstream publishers.

As the technology develops, we may see the rise of not just public blockchains, but private, exchanges with unique audience insights and understanding – operated by specialists.

Sound’s great, sign me up!

Hold your horses, blockchains are disrupting the finance sector and have already revolutionised one industry, and they will revolutionise, or at the very least impact, others. But in terms of application to advertising, we are looking to at least one or two years away before we can call them ‘the solution’.  

Current designs are too slow to be used for real-time bidding and programmatic applications so the performance is just not there yet for advertisers. Currently, blockchain-enabled exchanges can only handle around 5 transactions per second, which is far slower than current real-time bidding, but with Bitcoin showing how applicable they can be, the incentive is clearly there to make it work for other industries. Expect to see innovators working on more robust platforms, which will lead to increased performance and public blockchains that are useable for advertisers may begin to emerge in 2019 and 2020.

And for education, it may not just be in advertising that we see a revolution. My colleague, Saja Al-Nahi wrote a fascinating piece, published on University World News, that looked at how blockchains could be applied to aiding those fleeing conflict zones under refugee status to access higher education.

At Net Natives, we have confronted this issue of brand safety and transparency head-on since we began to integrate programmatic tools and techniques into our campaigns. Whilst blockchains offer a solution that may change the whole industry, we have always believed that every impression should already be accountable. If you want to know more about our three pillars of accountable impressions and how we protect your brand online, then do check out our previous content.

If you would like to speak to our digital advertising experts about running a brand safe, accountable advertising campaign in 2018, contact us today.

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