Using Blockchain To Beat The Bots

Digital ads have the advantage of scaling personalization effectively. But with the rise of ad fraud pushed forward by “bots,” numbers can appear inflated way beyond true human audiences. Some see blockchain as the most promising solution to this problem, given its function to act as an immutable ledger,

Blockchain has the potential to play a significant role in marketing and advertising. That vision is now being realized, thanks to the increasing awareness of digital ad fraud that is prompting marketers to seek greater transparency — a primary attribute of blockchain technology.

The revenue currently lost to ad fraud is staggering. According to Juniper Research, losses will amount to $19 billion this year, which translates to roughly $51 million a day. Those numbers are expected to more than double over the next five years, to the tune of $44 billion. 

Shidan Gouran, president and CEO of Global Blockchain Technologies Corporation, says the problem is exacerbated by “programming bots to emulate human behavior to simulate engagement and traffic to earn revenue from those ads.” But he sees the possibility of curbing the fraud through blockchain by implementing solutions like adChain.  

“Through a vote-based and collateral-secured whitelisting process, these blockchain networks will be able to ‘verify’ websites as legitimate, with real traffic, and no known history of using bots,” Gouran said. “With such networks acting as registries, advertisers will have a more reliable method of choosing which websites can display their ads, with a reduced possibility of their advertising budget being lost to a bot network.”

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Even if they don’t suspect deliberate fraud, companies are concerned that they don’t know exactly how their digital ad spend is allocated, and to what end. The Wall Street Journal reported a number of major brands have already signed on for blockchain solutions, including Anheuser-Busch, InBev, AT&T,  Bayer, and Nestlé. Their interest is transparency is fueled by understanding if they’re getting what they expect when paying for digital ads.

It’s not just about the money trail, but about accurate tracking of campaign reach. A number of startups are now jumping on the blockchain bandwagon for ad verification. IBM iX is one of the companies working in that space, after recently announcing the launch of a blockchain consortium for the digital media supply chain in June.  The consortium included vendors like IBM and its partner Mediaocean, an advertising software provider, along with big brands like Kellogg, Kimberly-Clark, Pfizer, and Unilever.

“By partnering with IBM, we’re able to launch the first advertising blockchain solution that will improve spend transparency – at scale,” Bill Wise, CEO, Mediaocean, said in a statement. This will help us come together as an industry under a single source of truth and rebuild trust to push us into a new era of advertising transformation.”

The current obstacle to adopting blockchain for such verifications in real-time is its speed limitations. In March, AdAge dismissed blockchain solution due to its relatively sluggish pace of about 15 transactions per second. That doesn’t keep up with the near-instantaneous demands of ad serve speeds.  

However, if there is anything we can learn from the rapid evolution of technology, it’s that yesterday’s impossible becomes today’s work-in-progress, and tomorrow’s possible. The companies working on blockchain solutions believe they will find a way to scale it efficiently.

In a Beet TV segment, Babs Rangaiah, executive partner, global marketing, iX IBM Global, said blockchain is rapidly advancing and should be seen as a parallel to the internet, which took time to get to  broadband. To those who are skeptical about blockchain’s ability to get up to speed, he says: “The reality is it’s moving very fast, just like the internet.”

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