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Advertisers Discover Blockchain

Although “blockchain” is often lumped into the “financial technology” (fintech) or cryptocurrency category, its capabilities are attracting attention from Madison Avenue and the digital media ecosystem. Advocates see it as a tool for better accountability and more reliability in ad sales and program distribution, starting with over-the-top (OTT) and streaming media systems. From Comcast and Tegna (formerly Gannett Broadcasting) to innovative start-ups such as MadHive and Algebraic Data, blockchain projects are ranging from ad placement and payment tracking to viewer rewards.   

In the media sector, blockchain’s decentralized technology can help resolve the contractual challenges of data sharing, including digital rights management, conditional access and privacy. A recent Deloitte study found that nearly 50 percent of media companies are using or examining blockchain technology. 

David Clark

David Clark, Comcast executive vice president and general manager of its Advanced Advertising Group, recently says his company’s new Blockchain Insights Platform, debuting this spring, helps advertisers, marketers, producers and networks “access the full breadth of data in a safe, encrypted way, which is really exciting.” Comcast’s initial focus will be on increased efficiency of premium video advertising and secure exchanges of non-personal audience data for addressable ads. “The TV industry as a whole will benefi t from collaborating on a common repository of data,” Clark says. 

Tim Hanlon

Other veteran ad executives share his enthusiasm. Tim Hanlon, founder and CEO of The Vertere Group, believes blockchain “can resolve issues that bedevil the media and ad industries.” He says, “This whole notion of programmatic buying has not necessarily been smooth. Blockchain portends improvements in automation,” especially its ability to “squeeze out fraud.” 

Stacey Higgins

Stacy Huggins, co-founder and CMO of two-year old MadHive, has developed a blockchain ecosystem for advertising, which she calls “a trusted pipeline for data exchange and collaboration across the ad tech value chain.”She says, “Blockchain technology will play a pivotal role in solving many of the issues the current supply chain grapples with.” It enables media companies to “maintain ownership and control of valuable data assets by employing cryptographic keys and using the blockchain for custody of data.” Those processes in turn support “cross-device attribution reporting and much faster reconciliation and payments from advertisers.” 

Premion, the OTT advertising services division of Tegna, has plunged into the OTT ad market, using blockchain in its tool for local and regional ad campaigns. Premion uses Tegna’s local TV sales force to insert ads on OTT channels, such as TBS, Discovery GO and Crackle. 

Jim Wilson

Premion President Jim Wilson calls blockchain “a solution to address the opaque supply chain, mounting ad tech fees and many hours spent reconciling post-campaign reporting for payments.” Wilson says that Premion uses blockchain “across the advertising ecosystem — agencies, marketers and publishers — to track ad impressions without relying on one single entity’s data.” 

Tegna and MadHive are also founding members of the new AdLedger Blockchain Consortium, which includes advertising and publishing/programming executives seeking to bring transparency and data security to the ad tech supply chain “by harnessing a blockchain backed peer-to-peer network.” 

Algebraix Data, a mathematics developer, envisions a blockchain-based advertising market that will allow individuals to store, manage and monetize their own data. This project also establishes a permission-based advertising network that allows consumers to choose which ads they see and who gets their data. In return viewers will be paid via cryptocurrency for watching ads. 

Barbara Bellafiore

Barbara Bellafiore, principal consultant at Bell Communications, which advises media, e-commerce and technology clients, says, “Blockchain technology has the potential to transform media as the internet did two decades ago.” Beyond increased accuracy and immediacy for tallying users, she believes blockchain off ers what marketers and media companies want most: “better tracking of the conversion of advertising into sales.” 

Gary Arlen