Blockchain as a solution to fraud in advertising.
On the financial cryptocurrency networks, blockchain ledgers contain information about financial transactions. For example, you can visit Bitcoin blockchain explorer at https://blockchain.info/ and click on any number in the “Height” column of the table you will see on top of the screen.
On the Bitcoin blockchain explorer, height means the number of the block on the blockchain. On the Bitcoin network, it was Satoshi Nakamoto who has created the first block of the blockchain back in 2009. As of the writing of this article, the Bitcoin network has over five hundred thousand blocks.
When you click on a number in the column, you will see a page for a block and if you scroll down the page, you will see detailed information about all the transactions in the block. Here, for instance, is a page for block #527015 with detailed information about 2128 transactions that the block contains: https://blockchain.info/block/000000000000000000069bb8b9d17e3968aeed6685b852a06dae6021d73b3d17
The Bitcoin network, the Ethereum network and others have proven that this information is secure and it becomes more secure as the networks become more popular. When the numbers of users and miners grow, the parameter of difficulty grows, which means that attacking a network becomes more difficult, too.
A blockchain network doesn’t have to contain information only about financial transactions. This information could be about anything, including any kind of marketing data such as ad views and duration of video views. Moreover, prospects and customers that marketers target with their advertising could have profiles on a blockchain network. Because of cryptography, these profiles would be secure by default, similarly to the wallet addresses on the blockchain networks such as Bitcoin.
Then, these profiles could contain information about ad views and marketing journey of each prospect and customer, including clicks, views, conversions, and purchases.
Managing ads with blockchain
The current problem is that an ad platform can inflate the stats about ad viewership and engagement that happens on the platform by reporting erroneous numbers. If this were to happen on a blockchain, the data would become a part of the blockchain and if the data were to have discrepancies, it would be immediately noticeable.
For example, because the Bitcoin blockchain is open and transparent, there are all kinds of charts and data available about the network. Here, for example, is the chart with transaction fees on the Bitcoin network: https://blockchain.info/charts/transaction-fees?timespan=all . Here is a chart with confirmed transactions since the inception of the Bitcoin network since 2009: https://blockchain.info/charts/n-transactions?timespan=all
If the network were to start having some irregular activities, it would become immediately noticeable.
Similarly to that, if an advertising platform were to start reporting data to a blockchain network, this data would become secure, immutable and transparent to the users of the network. Such a network would not necessarily have to be public. A large corporation that runs ads on a number of platforms could have its own private secure blockchain with the data about its advertising. This way, it would be easy to notice if video ad views on one platform last 20 seconds on average and a different platform reports views that last 2 minutes on average. Currently, such comparisons are not easy because the data is fragmented. It exists in different locations and may be updating according to different schedules.
Also, linking ad viewing and engagement data to profiles of prospects and customers would help eliminate the waste of ad dollars that go into showing ads to bots, like farms and other malicious players. With a smart contract on a blockchain network it would be possible to monitor the engagement and stats of users and to stop showing ads to users with suspicious activity.
Managing consumer preferences with blockchain
Another area where marketing could use a lot of improvement is adjusting the ads and experiences to the preferences of consumers. Currently, this data, just like the data about ad viewership, is often stored on platforms that are not connected to each other. For example, a customer may indicate that he or she prefers to get emails at most once a week, but this information stays in the email messaging platform and the customer will still see banner ads, YouTube ads, and ads on social media much more frequently than that. This may lead to the customer getting frustrated with the experience with the brand. Often, businesses today overwhelm prospects and customers with all the communications via email, direct mail, Facebook ads, banners, special offers, and more.