Blockchain Agencies: The Truth Shall Make Ye Fret.

TMG brings Truth to market.

Have you had a creative tell you that you just need to have faith in their instincts? Have you tried to identify the impact of advertising campaigns on sales and been given vague answers but not KPIs?


No longer. The Truth is here to set you free.


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When I first asked my MD to sign off on a trip to London Fintech Week (blockchain and security), I was asked to produce a business case for attendance. One of the staple elements of this kind of document is a ‘market applications’ section. This is tricky to produce when nobody in your sector is actually using the technology that you promise, swear on your life, cross your heart and hope to die, is relevant and will change the market landscape is astonishing ways. Thankfully, they let me go anyway.


“I was merely endeavouring to indicate that if we do not grab events by the collar they will have us by the throat. “ — The Truth, Terry Pratchett

I maintain that words like ‘cryptogedon’ should be consigned to the abyss of inflammatory journalism, but The Marketing Group have come out swinging this week with the news that they have launched a new media agency, built on Ethereum’s smart contract platform, that they claim will bring complete visibility to the media and advertising supply chain.


I’ve been burned before. How is this agency different?


The purpose of Truth, as TMG have it, is to provide a truly transparent service that will provide a single view across the value chain and a single clear fee for advertisers. They are stepping in to rebuild the trust relationship between organisations and media agencies.


This is enabled by their use of smart contracts built on Ethereum’s blockchain. You’d be forgiven for thinking Ethereum only exists as a currency in the financial applications of the technology. The amount of buzz around cryptocurrencies is doing an excellent job of obscuring cross sector potential. Blockchain at its core is a distributed ledger built in a trustless environment, which collates information into blocks, and chains them together using cryptographic signatures. This makes it simple to build smart, responsive contracts.


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The aim is to generate trading agreements that automatically respond to results, so if an advertiser implements a rule stating that a supply-side platform (SSP) takes 20%, and then the ledger records that it has taken 13% and paid the remaining 7% back to the agency, then this would not be counted as a valid transaction.


CEO Adam Graham says “We can provide more value to clients, publishers and consumers through disintermediating the programmatic media chain and providing more transparency through blockchain and that demonstrates to everyone where the money is going and tracks the metrics you need. There’s nowhere to hide.”


Can the technology take us further than that?


A fair commercial balance between advertisers, media owners and consumers seems like a pretty fundamental thing to ask for. So where else could the technology take us?


Blockchain ad platform MetaX revealed that in an unreleased beta test of blockchain with an undisclosed advertiser, his team discovered that between bot traffic, invalid banner video and unauthorised inventory sellers, more than 30% of the advertiser’s online ad spend wasn’t what it paid for. The blockchain as a solution can track media as it is processed and provide transparency on what exactly is working for your customers.


Data ownership (particularly in the wake of GDPR) also presents an interesting case study for blockchain. For example, digital wallets represent the beginning of the process that will lead to automatic charges for data access. A study by DMA found that consumers are most incentivised to share personal data with brands when they receive tangible benefits and control over their data. Blockchain gives them the power to choose how they interact with brands, and the ability to dictate what precisely constitutes a tangible benefit.


The benefit of the blockchain isn’t only limited to the customer. Such a database has the potential to deliver maximal efficiency with rapid data retrieval, indisputable and unambiguous source attribution, and complete transparency of process. Requesting consumer permission will enable brands to personalise communications, based around the precise preferences expressed by an individual, improving acquisition and retention.


But will it really work?


One of the challenges in the programmatic marketing space is that the blockchain currently cannot process the volume of data required to manage the bidding process. If it is allowing around 2000 transactions per second, it would be impossible for it to manage the millions of transactions per second seen in programmatic.


Additionally, even if it could handle the transactions, only certain megalith companies have the processing power to manage a database of that size, rendering the sector a walled garden with technology as the key barrier to entry. Making the benefits real will take significantly more development of this technology that is still in its infancy.


Que Sera Sera.


It will be fascinating to see which clients are attracted to Truth’s offering, and to see the whether their work clarifies the “murky at best, and fraudulent at worst” media supply chain.


Yourzine is open to collaboration, either through exchanging thoughts on the impact for your business, or through discussing possible partnerships.

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Tessa Darbyshire