When has the blockchain become the official way to transparency for digital advertising? Do not get me wrong: distributed accounting books are a promising new technology with the ability to revolutionize many aspects of our digital lives. The digital currencies built on blockchain have already proven to be a significant economic force, albeit a bit uneven. The cryptocurrency fed by the blockchain has produced picky values, although some of these values have declined as rapidly as they have increased. But beyond the boom and bust of the crypto, blockchain has not really accomplished any of the great promises made by its biggest supporters.
At a time when the demand for transparency is at its most historic, we should ask ourselves some important questions before putting all our bets on a blockchain miracle to solve the problems that may already be within our reach with the tools we have at hand.
Can he climb?
The existing ad-technology ecosystem already has one of the main advantages that a blockchain solution would probably hardly replicate: scale. Any solution to the transparency challenge will require a broad and scalable infrastructure. Currently, the main ad-tech platforms make the difficult job of creating the infrastructure in which the various actors of the digital advertising ecosystem negotiate business. DSPs, SSPs, and ad exchanges work by aggregating inventory availability and demand for that inventory. These platforms charge commissions to buyers and sellers in order to recover the costs of investment in infrastructure.
Beyond the boom and bust of the crypto, blockchain has not really accomplished any of the great promises made by his biggest calls.
For a blockchain-based solution to be effective on a scale would require an equally large infrastructure investment. However, unlike the current ad-tech ecosystem, there would be no immediate means to recover that investment through taxes. Instead, any attempt to create more transparency through blockchain should rely on the widespread adoption of open source technology. In other words, the creators of a blockchain transparency solution would be forced to give away a large piece of their technology for free.
Solve the uninterrupted
Transparency is a challenge that is worth focusing on, but advertising technology has already taken giant steps, largely through an industry-wide effort that has involved technology providers in close collaboration with brands, agencies and publishers for ensure that everyone is on the same page and armed with the right tools. Many of these advances would have been impossible without the technology industry and the infrastructure it provides.
Consider initiatives such as ads.txt, which help fight fraud. Launched by IAB Tech Lab with the support of key players in the advertising technology industry, its broad adoption has helped to curb fraud by controlling who has the right to sell its inventory. More recently, the advertising technology industry has collectively supported the launch of the Open Measurement SDK, a software development kit designed to standardize measurements across mobile apps. This effort helps mobile app publishers gain confidence from the buy-side partners and creates a single transparent standard on which to assess mobile advertising space. These efforts would be impossible without advertising technology.
Going beyond the transparency innovations supported by the entire digital advertising community and supported by advertising technology providers, it is worth considering how marketers seeking greater transparency can take advantage of existing tools. When industry leaders like Marc Pritchard, P & G's chief brand officer, demand that advertising technology clean the digital supply chain, I think they might forget that there's a whole ad-tech industry dedicated to doing just that . Verification providers provide solutions to detect and block fraud, ensure that impressions are viewable, and even to protect brands from appearing near risky content.
Unlike a blockchain-based solution that may emerge, marketers can leverage these ad-tech tools today to achieve greater transparency in their media purchases. These verification solutions are integrated with all major DSP and SSP. Transparency solutions based on advertising technology have even started to make progress in notoriously opaque spaces such as the walled gardens of Facebook, YouTube and mobile in-app environments. These solutions exist today, cover most desktop advertising space and are rapidly expanding into mobile and niche environments.
There is no doubt that the blockchain has a buzz, but for such an important problem as transparency in digital advertising, the buzz will not cut it. The ad-tech space has started to beat for the transparency challenges that have been part of digital advertising since day one. In reality, the industry has already made huge strides to solve some of our biggest challenges in terms of transparency. It is time to double the proven suppliers rather than embrace a solution that has all the characteristics of a passing fad.