Navigating the world of blockchain startups can be tricky, as the landscape is a bit of a minefield with a mix of genuinely good ideas at one end, and jargon-cloaked vapour-ware at the other. The technology does look like it legitimately has the ability to transform the ad ecosystem though, as big players on both the buy side and sell side are showing interest in some of the more exciting blockchain propositions. Here’s our guide to some of the companies using blockchain in advertising today:
Founder: Ken Brook
MetaX’s main product is adChain, an open protocol on the public Ethereum blockchain which it says allows for the building of decentralised applications for the digital advertising ecosystem. While MetaX says it doesn’t wish to hold ownership over adChain itself, it uses the product as the basis for its own applications.
The company believes blockchain has a wide range of uses within digital advertising, but is itself using the technology to fight ad fraud. Its first solution, the adChain Registry, is designed as a way for advertisers to identify fraudulent and non-fraudulent publisher domains. The product, currently in beta, will allow advertisers to use a token-weighted voting mechanism, where users spend an adChain registry cryptocurrency to vote on whether a publisher domain is fraudulent or not. This will then create a registry of supposedly non-fraudulent publishers which is publicly available.
The company is also using adChain for Ads.txt Plus, an extension of the IAB’s ads.txt initiative. MetaX says its solution lets publishers list their verified sellers on the blockchain, which buyers can then search through to check which sellers are legitimate.
CEO: Mary Keane-Dawson
Launched by The Marketing Group last year, TRUTH is a blockchain-based media agency which will use Ethereum to execute smart contracts. TRUTH says it will introduce “100 percent transparency” into the media supply chain by recording all steps of a transaction onto a distributed ledger.
The specific problem that TRUTH claims to solves is agencies receiving rebates back from ad tech partners they work with. The company says advertisers will be able to set certain parameters for how much each middleman receives, and that any payments which don’t fulfill these criteria will be invalid and won’t be processed. For example, if an advertiser states that an SSP should take 20 percent of the payment, but the SSP receives 20 percent and then returns 10 percent back to the agency, this would be visible on the blockchain and would be blocked by the smart contract.
CEO: Stephan Shakespeare
British pollster YouGov launched its new ad offering earlier this year, which uses blockchain to manage user consent for which data they make available to advertisers. The idea seems to take YouGov’s current model, which rewards panelists for volunteering answers to surveys and questionnaires and sells the data on for commercial use, and applies it to digital advertising.
YouGov says users will be able to anonymously give consent for which data they make available to advertisers, and will receive rewards for doing so, possible getting greater rewards for giving up more information. Once the company has collected enough data to roll out its offering, it will begin working with publishers, offering them access to the anonymised, granular data.
Blockchain will be used to track the exchange of data and consent, which YouGov says will protect against fraud and bots, and help enable granular management of permissions, which can be updated at any time.
Founder: Tim Geenen
Faktor uses blockchain for identity management, claiming to give consumers easy access to, and control over, their data. Users will be able to view and adjust their permissions via Faktor’s blockchain powered ‘consent management platform’, which will have four different access points, including a browser extension and a Faktor app. Users will therefore be able to micromanage consent of which data can be collected and who is able to track it, and access to content will then be adjusted based on how much data the user is willing to provide. There will also be a dedicated entry point for TV advertising, where customers can link a set top box to their mobile via a QR code scan, allowing their consent preferences to then be applied to addressable TV advertising.
Faktor bills its product as a solution to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, ensuring that consent is acquired in a GDPR compliant way.
Buy and Sell Side
Founder: Adam Helfgott & Stacy Huggins
New York-based MadHive uses open-source blockchain infrastructure Hyperledger as the basis for its MadHive DMP (data management platform), as well as for an ad marketplace and analytics service.
MadHive says its DMP will provide data portability, giving individuals the ability to access and move data that advertisers keep on them. By adding a blockchain layer that’s called up during the ad buying process, MadHive says consumers will be able to activate a trigger and block access to their data every time it’s called up for an ad buy. The company also says its platform allows advertisers to turn existing ads into interactive units which create first party data, tracked and stored in the blockchain.
MadHive is also working on MAD Network, which CTO Tom Bollich says he invisions eventually becoming a distributed ad server linked to consumer devices. The company says this system would further bolster consumer privacy, and introduce more transparency into the supply chain, with ever stakeholder connected and able to track any given transaction related to them.
Founders: Carolina Abenante and Mark Grinbaum
The New York Interactive Stock Exchange (NYIAX) says it uses Nasdaq’s blockchain-based tech to bring Wall Street’s automated trading capabilities to the buying and selling of advertising. Transactions made through NYIAX are automated and recorded to a ledger, meaning both the buy-side and the sell-side can track the progress of payments, as well as delivery via NYIAX’s third party verification partners.
NYIAX aim’s to cut out inefficiency still present in forward sales, which still involves a lot of human input, and will also enable futures trading (where payment is made at the point of trade, rather than the point of delivery). Futures trading is rare, but NYIAX uses blockchain for guaranteed contracts, meaning brands paying now for future delivery can be certain the seller will hold up their side of the deal.
Founder: Charles Manning
XCHNG, launched last year by measurement and verification company Kochava, is an open source framework for recording insertion orders (IOs) to a blockchain ledger. The company says it want to turn insertion orders into smart, self-executing contracts, where every part involved in a sale can view the terms of the deal on an immutable ledger.
XCHNG breaks an ad buy down into five components: buyer, seller, measurement, ratings and payments. Buys are classified in this way and entered into a blockchain ledger, allowing the insertion order to be executed as a smart contract. Payment is then automatically triggered as the terms of the deal are fulfilled. The company claims the advantages of handling contracts this way are that intermediaries are cut out, allowing buyers and sellers to work directly with each other,a and that it eliminates inefficiencies where both the buyer and the seller separately count impressions and measure viewability.
Brands already working with XCHNG include Nike, McDonalds, Warner Bros and CBS.
Founders: Chris Chapman, David Bookspan, Will Luttrell
Amino, formerly Curren-C, launched Amino Payments which it claims will make it clear where payments for an ad buy go, ensuring that every party involved actually is who they claim to be.
The tech allows advertisers to create a digital signature, which authorises their money to be spent. Amino says every ad buy is then recorded to a blockchain ledger, meaning it cannot be altered by either side. Information on when ads run is tracked by the system, which feeds it back into the financial record and automates payments as determined by the contract.
Amino says its product will help cut out fraudulent practices like domain spoofing, as well as clarifying how much money is getting funnelled off to middle men.
AT&T and Bayer are among those already working with Amino Payments.