Boston Dinner, Dessert, Fireworks & Everything Marketers and Media Buyers Need to Know About Blockchain

On Tuesday, June 12th, Digilant hosted a dinner panel in Boston titled “What Marketers & Media Buyers Need to Know About Blockchain.”Anagram’s Chief Executive Officer, Adam Cahill, moderated a discussion about the complexity and opinions on where blockchain is headed and how marketers, media planner and consumers will be affected with the following leading experts on the topic:


When discussing blockchain, most people have a very general idea of what it is – something to do with cryptocurrency, transparency, or monetary safety. But, when it comes to how blockchain is implemented, used and especially how it will affect marketing, media and consumers, most people are not well versed. Experts, like Dave, Isaac and Erich expressed their thoughts during the evening and gave their opinion on how best to prepare and stay up to date on changes due to blockchain.

This is my summary of what was said and what I took away from the event and not word for word for how the speakers answered each question.

Adam kicked off the event with the first question: What problems is blockchain designed to solve?

Isaac took to answering this question with an analogy that dates back thousands of years – dozens of commanders are defending their army and they need to coordinate their action, they need to decide to attack or retreat. Obviously, if they act correctly, everything will work great, however, the worst thing that can happen is if they don’t act in coordination. Within their army, there are messengers, which you can choose to trust, with the hope that they aren’t lying. Through all the chaos, they must come to a consensus on a truth of the situation and decide on what plan will work best. Blockchain is the first time we are able to solve the problem in a meaningful way, which doesn’t necessarily yield trust, but facilitates a conversation that everyone can take as the truth. So to draw a direct analogy, in the world of bitcoin, the general’s are the million of people that want to trade. These people need to decide who has how much and who needs to give what to whom. With the increasing complexity of ad tech – over 2000 tech providers and any given campaign you can invoke dozens of them and that will serve one ad to one person – we can now solve this very effectively. With blockchain, there is the ability to (1) solve longstanding structural issues in the industry and (2) solve the dumb pipes of the internet that weren’t meant to survive, bringing about a whole new generation of innovation, models and tools.
Erich joined in stating that blockchain is going to solve everything. Through all the issues that ad tech and digital marketing face, the consumer is the victim. Blockchain is in its infancy, people are talking and trying to figure out what they think. The companies who are quickly and aggressively creating a solution are a mess because it is such an early start. However, from this mess, applications that answer some of these questions will emerge, some taking longer than others.

Adam then asked Dave to play the role of contraire, to which he responded that out of ten possible use cases, there’s a handful of real cases where blockchain would help and ad tech is is at the top of that list. For ad tech, the problems really need to be solved. But he questioned, can blockchain change a company from the inside? Will you start adding blockchain or will you have to rebuild from the technology from scratch? People are saying they will start from the inside, but it isn’t happening. He posed the question if it can really be done?

Erich responded stating that after 22 years of ad tech, it would be ironic if this was the answer, if we are going to use the “stuff” we have today. The “stuff” we have today is bubblegum and duct tape – a quick, easy fix that isn’t sustainable.

Inspired from Erich’s response, Adam asked him why after all the different fields he has found success in and companies he has started, he planted his roots in ad tech?

Erich stated that he is a believer in ad tech, not to say it is without problems. He was surprised to see, after significant research, that many of the problems that ad tech is facing today, stem from the late 90s. Blockchain is new, it’s misunderstood, misapplied and many people say they have the solution. However, when you take into account that there is an opportunity to completely change the industry, there is a generation one opportunity to roll out some core functions that would sit next to and eventually replace that technology. His choice to work in ad tech was deliberate. He believes there is an opportunity to develop a new standard platform that will only succeed with adoption. But, they will get it done.

Adam turned to the audience as someone was curious to learn who profits from the current model? And if this were to start from the roots up, that would mean people are demanding this type of transparency. So, who can block this? Or who would be an objector?

After Dave joked that he’s the guy who isn’t benefiting from the current model, he went on to explain that the finance industry is taking their slice from everyone else. Everyone wants to maintain their part and when you insert something new, everyone wants their piece to be protected. However, no one gets a piece until we use this new system. You would need a consortium of the biggest companies who come together and break down the whole system. It would start from no one getting anything, building back up, and forcing big companies to join in. Naturally people are going to resist.

Erich jumped off of Dave’s point to say that there are people making more money than they should because the inefficiency is bigger than it should be. There are structural imbalances, frauds in the marketplace, vendors of dubious value and people are unclear what the contribution to the value actually is. We are in need of a mechanism to go deeper into the ad impression and see what the vendors are doing to the plan. Doing this would add a lot of value because as of now, lots of people are profiting but not off the right denominator.

Isaac concluded the answers to the question simply stating that there is no doubt that it is a big deal to get an industry to adopt a new idea. It is a challenge but that’s why it is interesting.

The next question also came from someone in the audience who asked how long they thought it would take for this to come to fruition?

Erich first stated the cop out answer that this will come to fruition during our lifetime, continuing to say that the real answer requires a conversation with publishers. There is an iterative way to roll this out that will provide accountability and legitimize the technology, all of which through new innovation. He concluded saying that he sees this happening in five to ten years.

After hearing those numbers, Adam asked if Erich thought it would be possible to see something like this happen in the next year?

Isaac jumped in to say that there are certain things that could sit next to the current technology.
Erich added that other organizations are developing their own points of view. Very large media planning organizations have a process where they sit in front of a media planner and select where they want to provide orders. There is a great deal of buying that happens quite transactionally. So, there is clarity, reporting and accountability in this process that can be taken and applied to blockchain. This could provide an intermittent step in showing the value in accountability for traditional media buying. At the impression level however, this is much more interesting as there are 12+ companies involved in each impression served to a consumer. He concluded stating that the analog way of buying is not going to last throughout our lifetime.

What is motivation to create this and bring it to the marketplace?

Dave used a comparison to the music industry to answer this question. At first, the music industry was very opposed to digital music. It was a ten year process to get them to adapt to the digital side but they quickly realized it was a process in which they would make a little less money while transitioning over in order to secure a sustainable future.

Isaac stated that there is a noisy minority of bad actors who are largely spoiling things for the other folks. The core of all of this comes from eliminating the waste this is directly related to fraud, automated inference processes and the creation of a new protocol to initiate blockchain into the marketplace. More money spent at a more efficient rate will produce better results. All of this will be a reckoning of the noisy bad actors.
Erich posed the question asking how long the industry is going to be passive to the fact that they are wasting half of what they are spending? There is a coalition of the willing who want to spend more money, more efficiently, but changes need to be made now in order for that to happen.

Who are the winners and losers through all of this?

All panelists jumped in to agree that the advertiser wins, the publisher wins, and the consumer wins. The biggest loser is the holding company, those writing the check that knows what is costs but don’t know why or how?

Where is the resistance coming from?

Erich was the first to jump in saying that there are agencies in the world whose business practices are suspect, which has nothing to do with blockchain. But, there is also a group of enlightened agencies, and with this group, there is hope that the conversation about blockchain enables empowered advertisers and agencies to make a better decision, have clarity in where value is created. Blockchain could disrupt how some agencies operate today.

Adam then asked if people are going to come together to make this happen? Obviously blockchain technology helps with transparency and fraud, but many people associate it with cryptocurrency, so does that mean that media will need to be paid for by cryptocurrency?

Dave explained that people often mix the technology of blockchain and cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrency can ride on top of blockchain and utilize it; there would not be blockcahin without cryptocurrency, but you don’t need cryptocurrency to validate it. Cryptocurrency can have nothing to do with the payments. He then used the example of lbry. Lbry is “free, open and community-run digital marketplace” built on the idea that people deserve free information. If a publisher is going to take upwards of 30% of the ad revenue, we should just let the people deal with each other. There is already iterative technology that is being built to take away the idea that you can make money from advertising.

Adam again went to the audience and someone asked how does someone go to P&G, for example, and ask them to use blockchain? From a security point of view, blockchain was built to be secure, but cryptocurrency has been hacked. So, how does one prove that blockchain is safe?

Erich took to answering this question by explaining that there are many insecure systems still in their infancy. We keep putting our own paradyme on how the industry should work, but, maybe there is a different paradigm that we have to play within.

Isaac added that blockchain itself has never been cracked, but people are trying to build so fast, people are leaving holes that can be cracked.

Adam brought up Brave Browser, started by Mozilla, which is a browser that lets people manage their identity and get paid for their personal data – a unique approach that questions who gets paid for what. He then asked if the panelists believed that people care enough to build something from the ground up?

Isaac’s opinion on this question was that if you have to ask consumers to install new browser, new marketing, new ways of “everything,” it doesn’t strike as the most optimal way forward for the industry. New protocol should enable those kinds of interaction. Everything should be built into the new enabling infrastructure or technology. He also added that we shouldn’t count out the traditional advertising people,
Erich believes that people do care. He brought up ad blocking and the poor advertising environment that consumers currently experience. The current answer to the ineffective environment is more volume, more poor advertising. 50% of advertising is fraud so the other 50% has to work harder, at a higher volume, with a lower cost. So, how do advertisers do it? What do they need? They don’t need  a new internet, but rather a well articulated process between the advertiser and the consumer. We need new technology that is reliable everyday with an optimized consumer experience.

The final question of the evening came from the audience. GDPR has unveiled a lot of questions with cost – companies have closed because they can’t afford the new costs. Could this prohibit companies from activating blockchain? Will small start-ups not be able to afford it?

Of course it costs money to reformat a business, stated Erich. However, he is weary that cost is not the sole reason companies left the market after GDPR. Effective deployment of the technology is at an infrastructure level. This would not require companies to create an entire new workflow.
The pipes of the internet are GDPR compliant, added Isaac, so it would be efficient to have smarter pipes that do the heavy lifting for us.
Adam concluded the panel, thanking the panelists for their time.

There is much to get excited about regarding blockchain. Although still at the beginning stages of development, adoption and acceptance, there is so much to be learned and gained from its adoption. A world that enables less fraud, more transparency and more brand safety is something to look forward to.
After more conversations and a delicious dessert, we were all pleasantly surprised by a spontaneous fireworks show over the water. Great discussion, delicious food and a beautiful view made for a spectacular Boston event. We want to thank our three amazing panelist once again for giving their unique and informative perspectives on this very relevant topic. We look forward to seeing you at one of our dinner panels in the near future.

Programmatic Media Buying 101: How the Industry is Solving Domain Spoofing and Ad Fraud with Ads.txt & Private Marketplace

In 2018 the ad tech industry, and especially the top DSPs, are going to focus on improving inventory quality for programmatic media, as seen in our top ten trends you need to know about programmatic this year.

Download the full infographic here

What Does Inventory Quality Mean?

Over the past few years, the quantity of fraudulent ads has decreased greatly as the ability to monitor and prevent ad fraud has improved. However, there was still a significant room for improvement. Much of the development that has been made is for desktops ads. As the digital ad buying process continues to become more transparent and ad inventory quality improves, focus now needs to be centered on mobile and video ads. Video ads are extremely enticing to ad fraudsters due to high CPMs. The importance of eliminating fraud and enhancing the quality of ad inventory benefits both buyers and publishers.

On the buyer’s side, there are two major reason to ensure quality ad inventory: brand safety and media waste. If a buyer purchases fraudulent ad space and their brand is presented in a negative environment, it can greatly affect their brand image. In regard to media waste, if an ad is bought and only viewed by bots, instead of human eyes, the media spend is wasted on false impressions. Purchasing quality ad inventory ensures that an ad shows up on the site it is supposed to be published on and that human eyes are viewing it.

Publishers are primarily concerned with ensuring a quality customer experience. Customer experiences are deterred through malware or annoying ads. If the ad exchange is not properly screened, malware can arrive on a publisher’s site. If the consumer clicks on the ad, it will infect their browser, creating a very negative customer experience. Customers do not like when ads refresh, flash or are otherwise annoying. Publishers need to ensure that this is not occurring with their advertisements.

Publishers and buyers need to work together to become a trusted source of quality inventory which involves the following:

  1. Publishers sharing information with one another about negative buying experiences.
  2. DSPs need to educate their advertisers, that buying ad space from many different sources opens up the door for ad fraud.
  3. Create realistic standards for viewability. It is unrealistic to set 100% viewability goals.

Solutions for Fraud and Domain Spoofing

Private Marketplace Deals

Ad space was traditionally bought through open marketplaces. This is a process in which multiple media owners offer up their ad inventory to multiple buyers. All of the buyers compete to have their ad space placed on a page and the highest bidder wins.
Private marketplaces are auctions that are only open to select advertisers through an invitation-only format. Some of these entail only one publisher offering up ad space, others have a few. Before the auction, buyers and sellers negotiate a deal. Each deal is given a unique ID and advertisers bid on that deal only – inventory that does not meet the deal will not be bid on. This marketplace structure requires more work however, it is much more transparent. Buyers will know where their ad is being placed such as the URL of the website their ad will be shown on. The marketplace ensures a more transparent ad buying process and ensures that buyers ads show up exactly where they want them to, reaching the right audience in the right place.  

DSPs Are Implementing Ads.txt

IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) has released the latest mechanism that boosts inventory quality and makes the ad buying process less risky. In September, IAB released the authorized digital sellers or ads.txt. This is a simple, flexible method for publishers and distributors to clearly state which companies are authorized to use their digital inventory.

Companies drop a text file on their website that lists the different companies authorized to sell inventory on their site. This will enable buyers to see which programmatic firms have authorization to sell ad space on specific websites, ensuring validity in their purchase. The upkeep for this process is also simple. Someone will have to monitor additions to an ads.txt list to stay up to date with authorized sellers.

If you haven’t already, there is no time like 2018 to get on the programmatic bandwagon.  If you need to get started Digilant University has all the information you need to get up to speed and get going.  Need more information you can also reach out to us here.

Digital Advertising Lookback for 2017

What Happened in 2017?

Although your newsfeeds and inboxes have likely been inundated over the past few weeks with content and messages reflecting on the events from this past year, the digital marketing world really never pauses or slow downs. Since last January, global digital ad spend has increased 15%, surpassing TV ad spend for the first time ever. According to Statista, 2017 marked the first year in which mobile traffic composed more than half of all web traffic. It’s clear that the way that people consume content, interact with brands, and navigate the buyer’s journey is changing. Before you finish ramping up your marketing for the new year and embark on new digital ventures, we wanted to outline these major developments from 2017 to help you keep up with advancements being made today and anticipate transitions that advertisers will need to make tomorrow as we move into 2018.

Amazon Now Has Its Own DSP

Through the consolidation of many DSPs last year, we were left with one major surprise: Amazon Advertising Platform (AAP) exceeded Google’s DoubleClick Bid Manager (DBM) as the most used DSP. Despite remaining fairly below the radar, Amazon’s DSP is quickly gaining popularity because of its low agency fees, self-service option and unique commerce and purchase data. When ad buyers were asked for their preferred DSP, 23% answered Amazon. This tops the next choice, AppNexus, which falls at 19%. As the number of DSPs not owned by walled gardens, telcos, enterprise clouds or media companies decreases, differentiation becomes the key challenge.

Innovations in Transparency Hold Advertisers & Publishers More Accountable

Facebook updated their transparency policy to require political and retail-focused advertisers to reveal all ads they are running publicly in their feed. In October, Facebook announced, “Starting next month, people will be able to click ‘View Ads’ on a Page and view ads a Page is running on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger — whether or not the person viewing is in the intended target audience for the ad.” All ads must be associated with a page during the ad creation. This is a huge shift towards leveling the playing field for advertisers as they will be able to view all other ads that are running on these networks and gain competitive insights to optimize their funnels. In the past, advertisers could run dark posts, which permitted advertisers to run as many ads as they wanted without ever appearing on the brand’s own feed. This means that your competition could run multiple target specific tailored ads and you would never see them. With Facebook’s new policy, regardless of demographics, advertisers will be able to see the ads that their competition are running.

Although this initiative stemmed from a need for greater democratic transparency, Facebook’s new initiative is helpful for all parties in the digital advertising sphere and they’re not the only ones advocating for more honest advertising practices. The IAB has taken major strides to keep publishers accountable for any counterfeit inventory served to advertisers through their ads.txt project. The Ads.txt buying method confirms that each webpage uploads a file to its root domain detailing which SSP (Sell Side Platform – a tool that manages the programmatic advertising on a publisher’s site) offers its inventory, its Placement ID and its relationship with that SSP. The publishers publicly indicate who is actually authorized to market their advertising space eliminating inventory fraud. In 2018 we’ll begin to see many DSPs offer only inventory tagged with an ads.txt ID to their brand partners.

Retail eCommerce Flourishes as Online & Offline Experiences Blend

2017 was an extremely busy year for retail eCommerce with a 4.9% increase in U.S. sales and a number of mergers and acquisitions. Amazon acquired Whole Foods for $13.7 billion and Walmart acquired a number of eCommerce brands like Bonobos and Moosejaw. Despite the closure of many physical retail spaces, brands with brick and mortar stores are leveraging the data they’re gathering online to improve the offline customer experience, even implementing AI and AR to better understand and communicate with the customers. Conversely, strictly eCommerce brands like Casper mattresses and Harry’s shaving are partnering with traditional retailers like Target to bring online products to consumers more accustomed to offline shopping.

Cord Cutting Becomes More Popular & Advertisers Work to Gain Viewability

TVs, gaming devices, smart set-top boxes, desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones that all stream Amazon Video, Youtube TV, Netflix, Hulu, and HBO can be blamed for the slow death of cable TV. According to eMarketer, 22.2 million Americans, an 33% increase from 2016, have officially cut the cord and no longer pay for traditional cable, satellite or telco services. It’s forecasted that by 2021, 30% of adults won’t have traditional pay TV.

As online companies observed the increase in the number of streamers and the profitability this area brings, they were quick to jump onboard. In August, Facebook launched its new video service, “Watch.” This platform offers both live and pre-recorded videos that Facebook users can upload content to, similar to YouTube. However, they also partnered with Major League Baseball, the NBA, Nasa, Time Inc., National Geographic and NASA who pay to add their content to the viewing options. Facebook is not the only newcomer as Snapchat, Disney, Philo and countless TV networks created both paid and unpaid streaming platforms.

With this change in viewing preference, advertisers are finding new ways to reach these viewers. Many of the streaming platforms require users to watch a 15-60 second spot before their content plays. An advantage to this is that these ads are 100% viewable – there is no way to skip the ad. If advertisers are able to create clear, creative video that captures the attention of the viewer and seems more like an additional piece of content, this new shift will increase lift and be a great addition to many brand’s media mix.

Artificial Intelligence Knocks on Everyone’s Front Door

In 2017, artificial intelligence (AI) branched out from the areas where we were used to seeing it, like inside of our cars, smartphones and aircrafts, and is quickly integrating itself into our homes. Over the holiday season, Amazon said they sold “millions” of their Alexa products, including the Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Plus, Echo Show, Echo Connect, Echo Spot, Amazon Tap, Amazon Echo Look, and Amazon Fire TV stick. Google also saw success with their line of home products.

Luckily for these search and retail giants, consumers’ attitudes towards AI has shifted from fear that the technology would take their jobs to appreciation. 75% of Americans now believe that AI is here to help humans and that those who don’t embrace its benefits will be without a job in the future. As it becomes increasingly present in our lives and continues to collect rich voice data, in-home AI devices will soon lend just as much of a hand to digital advertisers as it does consumers. As 2018 moves forward, advertisers will begin to map out the uncharted territory that lies within the data accumulated from these devices.

Apple Says Goodbye to the Home Button

Apple decided to make their newest phone’s screen as large as possible and to make space for more phone, they eliminated the home button. A once standard feature on every iPhone, adjusting to the new process to unlock the smartphone via facial recognition will take time. Chief Design Officer, Jonathan Ive, spoke to the change and some of the initial opposition it faced in a recent interview with Time. Ive said that “[he] actually think[s] the path of holding onto features that have been effective, the path of holding onto those whatever the cost, is a path that leads to failure.”

The world’s most valuable brand and owner of approximately 15% of the global smartphone market share believes that its 2013 purchase of Israeli 3D sensing company, PrimeSense, powering this technology will continue to position Apple as a mobile leader. Providing greater security and ease for users when accessing their phones, the disappearance of the home button fulfills Steve Jobs wish to create a more simplified login. The iPhone X is Apple’s most personalized phone to date prompting users to say that it feels almost like the phone is magical, and projections to sell 265 million iPhones in 2018 support this sentiment.
Videos and Visuals Dominate

Four of the fastest growing social media platforms are Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr and the common denominator within all of these platforms is visual content. People are no longer satisfied with solely written content and in order to stay engaged, especially for consumers in the Millennial and Generation Z demographics, they are actively changing the way they view content. The average person gets distracted in about 8 seconds, so incorporating popular features such as photos, infographics, memes, illustrations and videos is essential. With 81% of people skimming the content they read online and image-related posts receiving a 650% higher engagement, it’s clear that captivating visual and video content is only going to become more important in 2018.

$10 Billion Spent on Data

According to a study from the IAB Data Center of Excellence and the Data & Marketing Association, US companies spent $10.05 billion on third-party audience data and $10.13 billion on solutions to support its activation in 2017. The $10.05 billion breaks down into $3.5 billion spent on email addresses, names, street addresses and other personally identifiable information, $2.9 billion on transactional data and $2 billion on digital identifiers. In regard to solution support, $4.3 billion was spent on supporting data integration, processing and hygiene, $4.2 billion spent on hosting and management solutions and $1.63 billion spent on analytics, modeling and segmentation solutions.

Snapchat Improves its Ad Tracking

Snapchat has had a very eventful year with many successes and challenges. Despite its devaluation after its IPO in March, the social platform has been very resilient. Snapchat boasts about 178 million daily users that spend an average of 30 minutes per day on the app and if you look at users under the age of 25 (about 60% of all users), this jumps to around 42 minutes of Snapchatting a day, making it more frequently used than its competitor. For brands looking to reach these users, there are a variety of ways to leverage the platform to promote their offerings, such as filters, geotags, and in-app ads that viewers see between viewing friends’ and publishers’ stories.

What’s most promising about Snapchat is its users’ disposition towards ads, with 50% receptive to or neutral to the ads they’re served. Brands are hoping to see positive results from their Snapchat campaigns and are also excited that they can now track them much more effectively. The recent release of the “Snap Pixel” allows advertisers to add a pixel to their ads and track campaign metrics and data analytics in real time. For the past three years since Snapchat began using advertising, it’s been making it easier for brands to automate campaigns, bid on ad space and measure the performance. With these advances and the platform’s sustained engagement of young millennials and Generation Z consumers, Snapchat is maintaining its position as a major player in digital advertising.

Summary

With an overwhelming amount of new players and shifting paradigms that have arisen in the digital ecosystem throughout 2017, there’s a lot to keep track of and a lot of opportunity waiting to be taken advantage of in 2018.  Having a strong digital partner to manage your brand’s digital ad buying is crucial and Digilant is ready to step in to help.  Reach out to us here to learn more about our digital media buying solutions and services and how to maximize your brand’s digital advertising potential in 2018.

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