Digital TV Players Eye Blockchain to Block Facebook, Google

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Blockchain is viewed as a more efficient way of handling digital advertising transactions and data.
Blockchain is viewed as a more efficient way of handling digital advertising transactions and data. Credit: iStock

Advertisers and publishers could get help from Bitcoin technology.

The idea of using blockchain to handle digital ad transactions is starting to seep into the conversation among advertisers, digital publishers and ad tech vendors. Blockchain is the technology behind Bitcoin; it supports the market for the digital currency, which is supposed to be open, secure and seamless to access.

A number of ad tech startups and established players are exploring how this blockchain technology could mesh with current ad tech infrastructure, helping with everything from fighting fraud to challenging the supremacy of Facebook and Google.

"There's an opportunity here to shift the balance of power," said Adam Helfgott, CEO of MadHive, a company developing blockchain tech for digital TV advertising.

The startup chose to focus on over-the-top television, where digital ad delivery systems are nascent and there might still be time to beat Facebook and Google to the space.

It helps to understand what blockchain is: Mr. Helfgott describes it simply as a shared Google doc, where all parties record transactions of data and ads between publishers, ad tech vendors and advertisers.

No changes can be made to entries in the ledger, and all new entries are documented. Also, no copies of the data are made, only the original gets passed along from point to point, making it easier to track where it goes and when it is changed.

The technology could be used by brand partners that want to swap data or to track everywhere an ad impression went along the supply chain, and where it ends up. The blockchain also could show in real time where an ad is, who saw it, and deliver fast reporting on a campaign.

If digital video companies combined the power of their viewer data in a blockchain pool they might better compete with Facebook and Google, which account for 99% of the growth in digital advertising, according to IAB numbers.

This year, the digital ad industry will attract $10 billion more than last year while TV ad revenue remains flat, according to eMarketer.

"Facebook is moving into the over-the-top media-buying space and obviously have unparalleled targeting," said Stacy Huggins, MadHive's chief marketing officer.

This week, MadHive was at the Gabbcon conference in New York to discuss the potential for blockchain. Nielsen and IBM were on stage, too.

Blockchain is being considered for use in many parts of ad tech, and is seen as a way to eliminate fraudulent traffic, measure campaigns more accurately and handle billions of impressions more efficiently.

The blockchain acts like a central repository for everyone's data, and the partners can only activate that data through smart contracts and access it with secure keys.

"Publishers need to share data in a safe way," Mr. Helfgott said. "They could build up targeting capabilities that are on par with Facebook and Google."

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