Comcast Says Marketers Can Make TV Ad Buys With Blockchain Tech

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TV inventory for a new way of buying commercial time is coming from companies including Disney, NBC Universal and Cox Communications.
TV inventory for a new way of buying commercial time is coming from companies including Disney, NBC Universal and Cox Communications. Credit: istock

Comcast Advanced Advertising Group announced a new platform at Cannes on Tuesday that will allow marketers to make ad buys in broadcast and streaming TV using blockchain technology.

The platform will allow marketers to anonymously match their data sets with programmers and others in the industry to target consumers on any device without giving up proprietary customer info. Participants in the technology, dubbed the "Blockchain Insights Platform," include Disney, NBC Universal, Altice USA, Channel 4 U.K., Cox Communications, Mediaset Italia and France's TF1 Group, according to Comcast.

Blockchain allows parties to transact with each other directly, and to trust the transactions, without having to trust each other or have a central system of record, such as a bank or in advertising's case, a third party, because both parties have a copy of the distributed system of record.

Although blockchain tech is complex and has a steep learning curve, an increasing number of platforms are adopting several of its core principles, claiming it can make digital advertising more efficient and transparent.

Comcast says marketers that are looking to sell cars, for example, could use its data and Disney's data to "ask" what TV content would yield the greatest return on ad spending.

Neither party's data would be exposed, and the buyer would be able to rate Disney's effectiveness in much the same way that buyers and sellers are rated on eBay. Marcien Jenckes, president of advertising at Comcast Cable, said the technology allows both parties to get the benefits of pooling data without actually pooling the data.

Buyers and sellers alike hesitate to share too much of the information they've accumulated on consumers because gathering it requries significant time and money. They'd rather capitalize on the results themselves than give it away free.

"It is very difficult in today's environment for anyone to say, 'Hey I'll give you my data to give you an answer,'" Jenckes said. "It just doesn't happen that way. If you think about what a blockchain is, it's how can you do a transaction where you trust the transaction, without having to trust the counterparty or the other people involved and without requiring some giant central system of record."

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