Is that gold in them ’thar hills?
Written by: Dayna Moon VP, Revenue & Client Services at MetaX
Is that gold in them ’thar hills? Sadly this isn’t the opening to a celebrated Mark Twain novel but it is an honest and open commentary on blockchain and it’s place in our beloved world of adtech and digital advertising. But first, let’s take a step back in history to 1848, a time when thousands upon thousands of people took the road less traveled in search of prosperity, freedom and of course good ‘ole fashioned gold. The California Gold Rush, delivered an influx of people and economic upturn, but it also revealed a level of lawlessness that many didn’t survive. Sometimes humorously captured in movies, one-liners and bar jokes, “The Wild, Wild West”, is an era in its own right and one that shaped the very fabric woven through our country’s tumultuous history.
Until September 9, 1850, California existed in the unusual condition of a region under military control. There was no civil legislature, executive or judicial body for the entire region. Sound familiar? It should because as blockchain has skyrocketed into the spotlight it’s also sparked discussions around the need for some type of regulation and eerily parallel with the current lack of adoption of industry wide standards in both the adtech and blockchain eco-systems.
So what can we do about it? Plenty.
“Blockchain” has been the belle of the ball for the last two years within the adtech community. Poised for hockey stick growth, rumors, miscalculations and flat out false information spread throughout the industry faster than Vin Diesel behind his treasured Dodge Charger. Whispers in the back alley, ICO’s, and promises of adtech finally “getting the savior it needs” led to a rush of ideas, projects, protocols, companies and unfortunately an entirely new vocabulary. Just when you thought SSP’s, DSP’s, and DMP’s were the end of it, think again. Have you ever sat in a meeting and tried to explain what oracles, plasma and sharding mean? Or what a Token-Curated Registry (TCR) is and why they could be useful?
The reality is Blockchain can help adtech and digital marketing, however we as an industry need to learn and understand the true potential and the drawbacks this technology encompasses. For example, transaction speed is a huge hurdle. The more well-known exchanges handle 6 million requests per second, Ethereum at its best can only process around 15. I invite you to do the math. Some projects are going to market focused at the exchange level and “verifying” impressions. Others are focused on the financial transaction side.
An obvious question comes to my mind, how was the impression or transaction verified? Did you prove it wasn’t a bot but an actual human? Well guess what? If it's fraudulent you just wasted resources writing “trash” to a blockchain. FYI that doesn’t clean up your supply chain and all it really does is grant you the opportunity to say we utilized blockchain in a meeting …. And oh, by the way that has to be done with jazz hands.
Let's stop trying to fit a square peg in a round hole and apply blockchain technology where it can actually be useful and have a positive business impact.
So how can a blockchain - public, permissioned or private save adtech? The technology is meant to create trust, sustainability and security, so let’s start there. Many projects cite post-mortem analysis, but to what extent? If I’m a publisher I have very little insight in to how and what traffic is being spoofed until it’s too late. Which then leaves the nightmare of “clawbacks” and hours of time wasted chasing money that’s likely never to be seen again. A similar scenario exists with advertisers and proving the validity of their media buys. Anyone that’s been on the agency side likely has battle scars to show from days spent on reconciliation efforts.
That leaves us with a mid-funnel or upper funnel solution. We’ve already established mid-funnel is “Eeyore-like” slow, so the obvious solution is starting at the source, removing any players in question and keeping them out and that requires technology, as well as us fragile minded humans.
We’ve explored what this looks like with our project, the adChain Publisher Registry and no this isn’t a shameless plug. We’ve overcome more than a few obstacles along the way and changed our approach. “We’ve talked the talk now we’re walking the walk” - auditing campaigns with our partners and showing them the data, not just telling them what’s fraudulent. This process arms them with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions for their business, removing fraudulent sources, as well as, highlighting those utilizing positive practices.
Here’s why this strategy could work.
A registry or decentralized global list of items displays objective data. In other words, data that’s not influenced by payment, a trade association or a paid certification process.
What if a list that’s populated by the very people in our field to ensure validity began to change the way we buy media and choose our partners?
In closing, the next article you read or the next time someone states, "I used blockchain" - ask them how exactly? Was it a public or private instance? What points in the supply or demand chain did they analyze? If they “verified” an impression - how? What was the criteria? Similar to uncovering adfraud in the first place we have to start asking poignant and tactful questions regardless of whether we want to know the answers. Don't abandon ship just yet but do ask the questions that will matter for your business now and in the future.
Dayna Moon, a 15-year digital marketing veteran, oversees operations, revenue and client relationships at MetaX. Her extensive adtech background has strengthened MetaX’s product strategy and direction as the space continues to evolve. Moon believes that blockchain can improve existing adtech infrastructure and allow marketers to fulfill their goals with confidence if utilized properly. A graduate from the University of Georgia, Moon is an avid volunteer with local charities and spends more time than she’d care to admit outdoors, hiking. Prior to MetaX, Moon served as head of partnerships, data and programmatic solutions, and has held several international marketing and business development roles for companies such as Aol (Oath) and Pubmatic in New York, and similar roles with agencies such as 3Q Digital in San Francisco and Responsemine out of Atlanta.
MetaX leverages Web 2.0 and blockchain technology to design real-world advertising solutions that elevate digital media standards and establish a transparent ecosystem. MetaX developed the adChain Registry, the first Token-Curated Registry to be launched on Ethereum. The adChain Registry is a decentralized database of community-approved premium digital publishers. adChain Audits is a MetaX service offering scalable ad fraud solutions that provide in-depth digital campaign analysis from accredited auditors.