BLOCKCHAIN FOR MEDIA AND ADVERTISING - THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS
Published on June 24, 2018
I have been visiting Cannes for the past 6 years for our International Festival of Creativity. With nearly 10,000+ delegates from 100 countries, across 9 themes (this year) and not to ignore the various parallel networking choices at the Cabbana and the Yachts, one can easily get lost. So every year, I pick up a theme for my own focus and direct my walking towards getting to know more about it instead of getting lost in all that is happening there. This year, I picked my favourite theme - Blockchain! Despite being the festival of creativity, I was totally busy all 5 days - speaking at a couple of panels, meeting various stakeholders, clients and experts - on this difficult topic, which is still searching for a proof of concept and application in our industry. It has now become a habit, that this venue for the festival of creativity, is also used to make some announcements or give some point of view. There were also some announcements on Blockchain!
I am a total believer in this technology and fully understand the scope and implications of what it can do to our industry, but I returned back from Cannes, slightly worried, thinking about yet another story that is unfolding. A story where fame precedes fact at such an alarming rate that it might totally subsume those facts even before it is unearthed. I sincerely hope, our industry does not do such disservice to this technology by destroying it, before it is applied well. I am going to jump straight to my point of view on how to save this technology to our business, so for those, who are uninitiated to this technology, you might have do some homework, before reading it any further. But still, I will try to keep it simple.
There are 5 critical questions/check list or pointers that we need to be clear about
1. IMPORTANCE OF HAVING A PROPER DATA STRATEGY.
Not just clients or agencies. This applies to publishers and everybody else in the ecosystem. In the emerging world of Web 3.0 where each of one us will probably have only 30% information with us and the remaining 70% scattered all around the web, it is important to understand the distributed nature of our information; when, where, what and how they are stored and retrieved; nature of ownership and last but not the least, consent and permissions.
2. HOW THIS DISTRIBUTED DATABASE IS BECOMING A DISTRIBUTED LEDGER.
To my mind, this is the start of the digital transformation. How can we synchronise all the data sets for shared access; the naming conventions and the taxonomy behind it. Each one of us in the ecosystem are heavily investing in technology as CAPEX that runs into 3-5 years for returns. Distributed Ledger is expected to de-duplicate these investments and has the potential to unlock millions of dollars for better deployment or we might end up not finding enough monies to invest in this technology.
3. WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF CRYPTOGRAPHY.
We have heard of hijacking, but very soon, we will hear and learn about cryptojacking, where data is stolen, destroyed or mutated for individual benefits. Every time you make an online purchase from your desktop or an application from your mobile phone, think of some anonymous police officer guarding and protecting your information through some cryptographic technology. We need to find the right one for our industry, one that is common to all, protected and constantly upgraded by all as an industry.
4. AND THAT BRINGS TO MY NEXT POINT ON CONSENSUS.
We need to align on what should be the consensus protocol that is best suited for our industry. Is it Proof of Work? Is it Proof of Stake? Is it PBFT? How are the nodes managed? Who all are forming part of the consensus? What is the alliance between all of them? Building consensus is indirectly proportionate to speed of response. With million+ impressions being bought every second what is the compromise we are making to the protocol? What are the additional optional layers to this. Consolidation of the long tail outside the known walled gardens is an interesting trend to watch as well.
5. AND FINALLY, IS THIS ALL PUBLIC OR PERMISSIONED?
Blockchain technology is seen as a manna from heaven to solve fraud, fake and frenemies. How can a permissioned blockchain address this? Or should it? Is this going to be the industry standard or competitive advantage? Is this not-for-profit or a business with growth ambitions? We must take a cue from what other industries are doing in this space like in Banking, Shipping, Real Estate and Precious Metals. Open sourced platforms has its own merits and demerits. What is good for media and advertising, where personal privacy and corporate profit making interject.
We are already paying the price for having nearly 7000+ companies, gifting the term AdTech and MarTech, in these last 3 years, trying to put various band-aids to the system, which is now infamously called “tech tax”. Professional service providers are now being called "middlemen" thanks to this! If Blockchain is expected to address this, we cannot afford to replace them with another set of companies, now trying to solve a new set of problems with new and improved band-aids for privacy, content authentication, billing reconciliation, supply chain transparency and few more.
Time to take a pause and ask the right questions.
While the questions might have changed, the answers have always come from the details.
Because the Devil is in the Details.