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by Weronika Slowinska, Jul 06, 2017

Protecting Privacy and Driving Advertisers' Bottom Lines With Blockchains


Advertising

Privacy in the digital age is a recurring source of concern. Most of us have some sort of digital identity that spreads across multiple channels and this eventually becomes more challenging to control. This digital identity gradually slips away from us, and with an overwhelming number of entities holding this information, many of us ultimately end up losing track of it.

Going over blockchain technology with a fine-tooth comb, we see that a new potential for maintaining privacy emerges. Some will claim that sharing the most secret and confidential documents over a distributed ledger with no real authority to run the show is inherently risky. After all, the ledger is public and transparent; thus information is accessible to anyone. On the other hand, advocates strongly underline the role of cryptography in providing a secure way of storing and managing personal data. Next, they emphasize transparency as the key to conducting the fair and honest transfer of information.

But where does marketing and advertising stand in all of this? Only recently has this sector begun to experiment with blockchain technology and its potential use in the creative field. As we tend to look at blockchains from a financial perspective, we omit possible applications of it elsewhere. Given that blockchain technology is a huge database that cannot be altered, the flow of creative work across the network could never be sabotaged. Similarly, running marketing campaigns on the internet would acquire different form. 

Digital ad practices nowadays differ quite significantly and they pose some issues for those who want to carry out fair and transparent advertising. So-called ad fraud comes in different shapes and sizes, but mostly includes the practice of cost-per-click (CPC) or cost-per-acquisition (CPA) campaigns against common rules and norms. Advertisers pursuing display marketing often do not know where their campaigns are actually being run or how. Practices like traffic fraud, when publishers buy fake traffic without advertisers’ knowledge, or domain spoofing, in which advertisers view a fake website as a reputable publisher, are more common than ever.

The advertiser–publisher relationship is based on a great deal of trust. Contracts concluded between the two parties may naturally have different outcomes given that they are supported by goodwill. Even if the publisher appears to be a reputable one, what are the chances that creative entities actually land where they should? 

In response to that problem, innovators like Los Angeles–based MetaX want to use blockchain technology to have a full and comprehensive overview of digital advertising processes. Through what they call “adChain,” MetaX hopes to use the concept of distributed database among those involved in an ad campaign. The database would store information regarding impressions, participants, media or placements.

MetaX essentially provides the opportunity to follow purchased impressions over the internet. More important, impressions within a campaign are encrypted and broadcast to each member of the ledger, who then approves those impressions. The marketing campaign can be tracked across the network, providing an exact overview of where and how it is conducted. Since everything is done through blockchain technology, the impressions become an irreversible part of the ledger, and everyone in the chain can see and approve them. Thanks to the real-time verification, ad fraud can be immediately identified and blacklisted. This, in turn, means preventing the more disastrous consequences of it.

The biggest concern when it comes to ad fraud is related to how it affects the overall advertising ecosystem. Quite often, users do not distinguish between the real ad and the one that is potentially malicious. Subsequently, installing ad block and other software that prevents ads from being displayed is more common than ever. This significantly harms the industry and may have quite tragic consequences in the long run.

When speaking of the blockchain, the bottom line is that it provides new ways for us to handle information, be it in the creative or financial industries, and even beyond. The blockchain is not private but it can be anonymous. If we take a closer look at our everyday lives, we can see a gradual change in what privacy used to be before the digital revolution and what it is now. Not many will be surprised anymore upon hearing of an open database in which the flow of documents is as transparent as it can be. That transparency and anonymity strongly vouch for a wider adaptation of blockchain technology. No matter how they are applied, blockchains have the potential to make every participant play by the rules.

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