August, 2018 Blog

Ask the Expert: What’s Blockchain?

Ask a Centro Expert is a blog series from Centro where we break down the complicated tools, tech, and trends you’ve been hearing about in the trade pubs and around the office. We reach out to our in-house experts to ask the tough questions and turn them into bite-sized, palatable Q&As for your reading pleasure. This month’s topic: blockchain. We talked to Ben Bring, Centro’s VP of client services, for the break down. 

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a digital, undisputable ledger that chronologically records transactions in near real time.

Large amounts of information that can be recorded securely. Not one entity can destroy it or artificially manipulate it.

How could it be used for digital media?

Blockchain has the potential to impact how media professionals do business and deliver results. The biggest fundamental point is that it has the ability to provide transparency and accuracy to a chaotic digital framework. It could solve for decades-old processes involved with matching contracts with delivery. And it could be applied to issues such as ad verification, fraud mitigation and data quality.

How could a blockchain affect media contracts?

In a typical contract between an ad buyer and an ad seller, the buyer only pays for what it contracted. Having an indisputable record could remove our industry’s reliance on having multiple parties reporting and then working through discrepancies to come to an amendable billable unit or value. The industry would work off Smart Contracts where all parties have the ability to see what actual digital events took place and then cross reference the contract. There would be no doubt as to what was requested for purchase (audiences, impression counts, clicks, etc.) and what was delivered. Media buyers would be protected from waste and potential fraudulent activity by their partners. No single party has the ability to tamper with these digital records, contractual or otherwise. The math is there for everyone to see. No conversation is necessary.

When squaring away contracts, do we pay by bitcoin or any other cryptocurrencies?

All of the reconciliation opportunities in blockchain require some level of tokenization similar to Bitcoin or Etherium. There needs to be an agreed upon value of media and new currency with which to buy it. The challenge is that digital media is bought in a very fragmented way.

I’m not bought in yet. What else can blockchain do for me?

Another major challenge that the blockchain may be able to help solve is payments. It takes between 90 and 120 days for publishers to receive payment for their inventory. A blockchain and tokens could act as an escrow of sorts for pre-payment so that when the media is run, the token are immediately transferred and converted to cash. This also relates to transparency because blockchains could show what entities receive a portion of the payments.

What if I’m an advertiser and I don’t care about payments to publishers?

Advertisers could also benefit from higher quality data. Data continuity and quality are two issues that plague our industry. Both facets are affected by numerous obstacles such as 3rd party mediation, lack of direct connections and data loss. Blockchain has the potential to help solve for all of these moving pieces. Because the ledger is distributed, connections can be more direct, not only removing mediation ad fees but also decreasing data loss.

Ok, I’m interested. Can my campaigns be recorded in blockchain now?

Not just yet. As with every new applications to technology, implementing a blockchain for campaigns is cost-prohibitive currently. And its capacity for processing data may not be enough in a programmatic buying environment, where DSPs are transacting in the millions every minute of the day. The possibilities are worth noting because it takes planning, vision and collective thinking to bring to market commercially viable solutions. Even if I believe the media industry is not ready for mass adoption of blockchains, I am cautiously optimistic about how our professionals could utilize it. It’s important to keep an open mind and continue following the advances made and how they can impact your business.

The key will be adoption. Ad tech players are going to have an impactful role in creating applications for the technology that every company could use.

Are you interested in other Centro resources that will help you understand blockchain? Reach out to info@centro.net.