Widespread bans of initial coin offering (ICO) and cryptocurrency adverts on major social media platforms and search engines could provide the opportunity for a Blockchain-based advertising service revolution.

In June 2018, Google’s ad service will stop serving any advertising content relating to cryptocurrencies or ICOs. The move has massive ramifications in that all cryptocurrency businesses will be denied access to the biggest advertising platform in the world.

Similar bans from Facebook, Twitter and a number of other mainstream social media platforms has made matters worse, limiting the ability for these businesses to reach a massive base of potential users.

There is a silver lining to these bans, as a group of big companies have been developing Blockchain-based platforms that have the potential to fill the void.

They could also solve long-term problems that have tormented the digital advertising space, namely privacy invasions, bots, inefficiencies in campaign assessments as well as ad-blockers.

Digital advertising - by the numbers

According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), digital advertising revenues in the US totalled $40.1 bln in their 2017 half-year internet advertising revenue survey conducted by PwC - with a an estimate of $85 bln in revenue for the full 2017 calendar year.

Just to show how much of a stranglehold Facebook and Google have on the digital advertising space, AdAge cited a report from Pivotal Research that estimated the two giants totalled 73 percent of all US digital advertising revenue in the first half of 2017.


Calls for accurate digital advertising metrics

Of great concern is the return of investment of digital advertising campaigns, and the exposure brands are getting from digital campaigns.

This was highlighted in 2017, as the likes of Procter & Gamble, Bank of America and Unilever called for greater transparency from digital advertising agencies. As reported by AdWeek, these multinational companies threatened to cut billions of dollars of spending if advertising agencies didn’t address issues of fraud and transparency.

According to Procter & Gamble’s chief brand officer Marc Pritchard, a large portion of advertising budgets are wasted due to a number of factors, as quoted by Adweek:

“Frankly, there’s, we believe, at least 20 to 30 percent of waste in the media supply chain because of lack of viewability, non-transparent contracts, non-transparent measurement of inputs, fraud and now even your ads showing up in unsafe places.”

Going on the IAB’s $85 bln forecast of advertising revenue in 2017, up to $17 bln could be wasted by the concerns highlighted by Pritchard.

Considering that Procter & Gamble have a $2.4 bln advertising budget, their concerns about industry practices cannot go unnoticed.

England’s House of Lords Communications Industry has also highlighted these concerns. As Marketing Tech News reports, committee chairman Lord Gilbert of Panteg, said the industry is struggling to deal with a number of dysfunctions.

“The market for delivering digital advertising to consumers is notoriously ‘murky’: businesses which buy advertising services don’t know how their money is being spent, whether their advertising is being displayed next to content which is obscene or which supports terrorism, or whether their ads are being viewed by a human being at all.”

While conventional digital advertising networks look to overhaul their processes, Blockchain technology is being used to answer some of these problems already.

Streamlined, transparent advertising networks

IT giant IBM and online media platform Salon have partnered with Adledger to pilot a Blockchain proof-of-concept called “The Campaign Reconciliation Project” (CRP).

Adledger is a non-profit research consortium developing a variety of Blockchain based solutions for the advertising industry. A number of companies form the consortium, which hopes to solve a number of problems plaguing the industry.

A major concern for the advertising industry is how companies can accurately assess the true value for money out of an advertising campaign, according to a blog post by Automate Ads CEO Andrew Torba on Huffpost.

This is in essence what the CRP will do, by recording data from contractual conditions to publisher payments - all on an immutable, auditable blockchain system.

According to PRWeb, the project addresses “long cycle times, manual reporting and discrepancies that are the norm for today’s reconciliation process across what has become a complex advertising network.”

Of utmost concern is an apparent divide between money spent on campaigns and the value a business receives. Part of the problem is the amount of money that is seemingly wasted through the process of digital advertising

IBM’s global solutions head Chad Andrews wrote a column in which he said that almost half of every dollar spent by advertisers is lost in the digital advertising supply chain. Whether its due to fraud, or costs of intermediary services, advertisers aren’t getting the full bang for their buck.

Salon sees value in the project’s ability to provide auditable data on campaigns published on their website. Ryan Nathanson, Salon Media’s chief operating officer, said the Blockchain platform solves many inefficiencies of current digital advertising networks:

"The shared ledger on the Blockchain will act as a single source of truth creating indisputable transparency for both the brand itself and the publisher, which will aid in greater accuracy during reconciliation as well as make advertiser spend much more efficient."

A ‘brave’ new world

Another big industry player, the Dow Jones Media Group (DJMG), is also exploring the possibilities of a Blockchain-based advertising solution for its content brands.

DJMG have partnered with Brave Software to provide a platform that will serve advertising to websites providing premium content. Brave, which was developed by Javascript creator and former Mozilla CEO Brenden Eich, raised $35 mln in 30 seconds in its ICO launch in June last year.

The agreement would see Brave provide premium content from DJMG to a select few users that download the Brave browser. These content providers will become members of Brave’s Basic Access Token (BAT) platform, which awards users BAT for interacting with advertising served on the browser.

Eich’s Brave platform endeavours to rewrite the status quo of current digital marketing systems:

“We’re trying to reconnect the funding that comes in gross payments after the fact from advertisers and gets chopped down by a bunch of middle players — notably Google — and the remnants are given to publishers,”

Forward thinking

These Blockchain projects address these pressing concerns within the digital advertising space with innovative ideas harnessing all the benefits of distributed ledger technology.

With the ability to write in contractual obligations and parameters, advertisers know where and when their adverts will be published and will be able to track that with the transparency provided by Blockchain technology.

As IBM’s Andrews explains, the success of these projects will depend on various players in the digital advertising industry accepting a new age solution to these pressing concerns:

“With a Blockchain backed peer-to-peer network, achieving transparency in the digital advertising supply chain is possible. But, ensuring its success will require the entire industry, including advertisers, ad tech providers, publishers and agencies to coalesce around a shared, auditable version of truth.”

Unilever is currently developing its own blockchain project to address some of these issues, with the help of marketing service provider IBMiX.

IBMiX global marketing executive partner Babs Rangaiah told that Unilever will start with campaign reconciliation of marketing campaigns - which became blurred due to current supply chains:

“One of the things that happens when you have so many middlemen is discrepancies become rampant. And so you typically can’t reconcile that until the end of a flight, and by then it’s a mess. What Blockchain does is allow you a single, unified view of how that media buy occurred, and there’s one number.”

Given that some many big industry players are calling the advertising industry to clean up its processes, the use of Blockchain technology could well become an important part of this process.

Whether it’s startups, or multinational corporations, the quest for honest, value for money from digital advertising will require a shift in thinking and processes that could be answered by Blockchain technology.