Initially introduced as the technology underpinning Bitcoin, blockchain has since become recognized for its potential to bring trust and transparency to almost every industry, including marketing and advertising.
TWG’s CEO, Tony Winders, spoke on a panel at the DMA’s &Then conference in October, 2018 entitled “The Current Realities of Blockchain Marketing.” Along with fellow panelists Mike Edelhart, managing partner at SocialStarts, Jordan Hwang, Sr. Director, Growth & Biz Ops at Evernote and Ann Greenberg, founder and CEO of Entertainment AI, the group separated hype from reality in blockchain for marketing and advertising.
“Blockchain’s primary impact on marketing over the next two years will be the release of early versions of projects funded on during the ICO craze of 2017 that have been quietly getting developed while the cryptocurrency tide has been out,” Winders said. “Security, privacy, self-sovereign identity will rule the consumer narrative, while savvy adtech/martech execs shore up the fraud, waste and abuse with validation and verification systems that have the potential to bring trust back to advertising.”
He pointed to such innovations as AdChain’s token-curated registry to validate brand-safe sites; Lucidity’s impression verification, payment tracking and fraud prevention; Rebel.ai’s security solutions for brands and publishers; MadHive’s DMP and Analytics; Kochava’s XCHNG platform for digital advertising; and NYIAX with its premium ad-exchange program.
“While privacy will continue to be a factor, the real opportunity for direct marketers is in the area of self-sovereign identity,” said fellow panelist Ann Greenberg, CEO of distributed media company Entertainment AI, who created the Media & Entertainment Digital Identity Association (M.E.D.I.A) to address precisely these issues.
“We're entering an era where consumers will permission their data to marketers on an ad-hoc basis in exchange for value, as opposed to the current model where consumers have virtually no understanding about or control over their data,” added Winders.
He noted that those shifts are already being seen with projects like AdChoices, AdLedger, DataCoup and Civic. Shiru Café is an early example of this trend. The chain provides “free” coffee in exchange for customers (mostly students) personal data which it shares with marketers. There are also new blockchain projects being born from traditional media and business models and industries, including AlphaNetworks, ShelterZoom, WorkCoin, BitBounce, Brave Browser and the Basic Attention Token.
But the group cautioned that beyond privacy, there are risks still to be overcome for blockchain ad solutions to scale, namely honesty and adoption. Ironically, even in the so-called “trustless” domain of blockchain, trust will be a major factor in its ability to move forward meaningfully in 2019 and beyond.
“Some early advertising projects have relied on companies reporting honestly and that all stakeholders in an ecosystem are on the ledger,” said Winders. “As we reach a critical mass of industry participation, trust will be assured and blockchain will take an already vibrant martech sector to a whole new level. The first wave is going to be about validation of data and cleaning up discrepancies which have plagued the industry for decades. Then will come removing unnecessary middlemen, which will likely put certain vendors out of business as things change over time, but that change will come at a glacial pace.” He added that blockchain could propel a shift from mass advertising toward the true promise of one-to-one advertising.
Blockchain allows for more credibility in marketing because information woven into all aspects of products and services creates a newfound ability to demonstrate their own provenance. Whether dealing in the supply chain of physical goods or the delivery complex digital advertising systems, blockchain technology holds the promise of assuring what shipped from the manufacturer is what is ultimately gets delivered to its intended consumer. 2019 will continue to be a proving ground for the value of blockchain marketing and advertising, but the potential is real and the spoils will go to innovators with the patience (and capital) to gain market adoption for the first wave of marketing and advertising products they have been building over the past two years.