Blockchains are everywhere, even in advertising. In any case, that’s the word on the street. Whether to modify buying platforms, stop click fraud, pay advertisers or even web users, blockchains are presented as the remedy to all advertising’s ills. Could it be that simple?
Whether it’s due to click fraud by bots, the opacity of certain adexchanges, or the often-doubtful placement by certain networks, the RTB Display quality is often a much-criticized subject.
If you add the issue of opaque media purchase costs (particularly in the US), it’s not surprising to see actors attempting to offer more transparency in this sector.
AdChain, for example, an open protocol based on the Ethereum blockchain was created to propose a whitelist of site publishers by allowing owners of adTokens to vote for each publisher before their inclusion, or not, in the list. The sites which are overwhelmingly rejected will have lost the tokens they played to join the whitelist in favor of those who rejected them which aims to guarantee constant checking of sites.
The sites are regularly subjected to a vote in order to prevent their audience from changing over time.
A system that’s a little complex and still being rolled out but which could be interesting if the voting systems weren’t already being manipulated by certain actors.
Among the creators of the adChain registry base, you’ll also find MetaX which offers a buying platform with a blockchain as well as the Ads.txt Plus instigator, a blockchain version of IAB’s Ads.txt initiative. Their aim is to guarantee an list of approved resellers for each publisher. This “Plus” version proposes to access the resellers site list more easily on the blockchain and to take mobile apps into account, or yet again, to create private reseller lists.
We can also cite AdEx or NYAIX (New York Interactive Advertising Exchange). The latter, created by the NASDAQ with its own blockchain developed for the financial portion of the NASDAQ, is in full development and wants to offer an exchange platform for term contracts and advertising inventories.
XCHNG by Kovacha also wants to simplify media purchase and management of publisher-advertiser contracts.
With increased adblock market share, it’s clear that the web user is more reticent to see advertising as it’s currently offered.
Advertisers also want to ensure that their ads are seen by humans and so have developed the idea of allocating a portion of advertising expenses to web users if they accept advertising.
Brave is the primary actor who wants to impose blockchains in this manner with its BAT (Basic Attention Token). The idea is to pay web users for their attention to advertising.
On one side, Brave, a new browser which includes a built-in adblock and is already available on computers and mobiles. And the on other, the BAT, or Basic Attention Token, a token based on the Ethereum blockchain which will soon be incorporated into Brave. The latter’s objective is to propose a payment logic to publishers for their content and to web users for the ads they view.
Thus, the user will have 2 possibilities. S/he can decide to allocate a set volume of tokens every month to all the sites s/he visits (and so not be exposed to advertising) and in exchange accept the display of certain ads (approved by Brave according to certain conditions). Or, the user can simply block all ads.
If the user accepts the display of certain ads, then in exchange, s/he will receive a small BAT amount. As for the advertiser, it will be certain that the ad was displayed by a user who made it clear s/he accepts seeing the ads, and the advertiser will avoid the bots which impact its media costs.
The BAT Token system will make it possible to do without a great number of middlemen, and so reduce costs in order to better pay the publishers and give back a portion to the web users. Further, it would be incorporated directly into the browser and data would be anonymous.
In terms of payment, the web user could receive 15% of the amount paid by the advertiser, 15% would be for the advertising partners, 15% for Brave, and the remaining 55% for the publisher. As the web users have the possibility of paying out the 15%, the publishers’ share could go up to 70%.
The idea of paying the web users for their attention via the blockchain has already been picked up by other actors. Algebraix offers a secure lockbox with a web user’s personal data which s/he could allow an advertiser to access in exchange for Tokens.
Other content publishers such as Street Press, are studying the use of a cryptocurrency mining script based on the, in this case, Monero blockchain.
As such, they suggest using the power of the web user’s machine to pay themselves, rather than displaying ads. A script loads simultaneously with the site and uses a certain percentage of the web user’s machine calculating power to mine the concerned currency and pay the site.
For the web user, the impact is limited (a slight increase in electrical use and potential wear on the processor) but this of course, depends on the processor’s rate of use and the volume of the site using this method. At present, we’re talking about testing conducted with the web user’s permission (in contrast with business scripts used without the user’s consent on sites such as Showtime) in order to find another payment method for content publishers.
Whether in reducing fraud, changing the advertiser-publisher relationship, or paying publishers, the possible uses of blockchains are multiplying.
Some will never see the light of day lacking a real interest in relation to the current system, or because of technical problems or low adoption. The idea to revolutionize such an important sector where two giants, Google and Facebook, have become ultra-dominant, seems very complicated. But it’s clear that this technology may, on paper, have considerable effects on advertising and maybe on our relationship with advertising, by giving us as web users some control, and, above all, by offering publishers alternatives to existing models including some that remove advertising.
There are certainly other ideas within digital advertising using blockchains which have yet to be invented. And numerous questions are raised by the attitude of the sector’s giants who could pre-empt these initiatives, or the arrival of new actors who could see a way of disrupting the established order.
Difficult to know if the blockchain will have a minor or major role in this sector but interesting ideas are already on the table, and if they develop, it’s obvious that agencies and advertisers will need to take interest to compare with current choices. All the actors in this sector are pragmatic, and only this comparison will inform us on the future of blockchain advertising.