Building a Better Programmatic, One Block(chain) at a Time

Blockchain is described in Digiday as a “ledger” of programmatic transactions. This ledger contains the transaction data of programmatic markets to give everyone involved in the process transparent data – something that is currently lacking. Blockchain will map the entire programmatic transaction from brands to publishers to SSPs to DSPs and back again, creating a history people can look back on to garnish insights like ad placement, cost effectiveness, and the detection of fraud. Blockchain is like sharing one massive Google Sheet across multiple companies and transactions, but to keep privacy, certain lines are blacked out. According to their role in the transaction, certain people will have access to a limited amount of information displayed on blockchain.

Some massive tech players are flocking to blockchain to harness the transparency it could offer the programmatic environment. Coupled with an interest in AI learning, IBM is one of those players. IBM’s CMO Michelle Peluso gave an interview with Digiday talking about their optimism for blockchain’s transparency. She said blockchain addresses buying transparency and the waste inherent in the current programmatic marketplace. The ideology behind blockchain cleans up programmatic transparency by listing out exactly who takes how much from ad spend as money is transacted through the programmatic ad buying process. This money tracking keeps publishers and tech companies honest by creating a trail back to the ads you bought (fighting ad fraud) and creates an itemized list of expenses on the dollar.

While some companies think Blockchain is the next breakout star of programmatic, others are skeptical of its practicality. For starters, blockchain will need a massive technology backbone to report all of the programmatic transactions that take place per day. As of a November 2017 article by Digiday, blockchain reported it could process “more than 1 million (programmatic) transactions per second.” While impressive, the current programmatic landscape serves billions of bid requests per second, and programmatic ad spend is increasing each year. The industry is skeptical of blockchain’s ability to keep up with the high volume of requests. Additionally, the servers needed to handle such a high volume are not cheap and are hard to come by. The only tech companies that have the current capabilities to handle such technological support are organizations like Google and Amazon. Turning blockchain over to private tech giants is the opposite of blockchain’s goal – a transparent and accessible transaction history. Tech giants have a reputation of being “walled gardens” who keep almost every piece of data under lock and key for proprietary purposes (a.k.a. contributors of the current transparency problem.) Finally, marketers and programmatic traders are wondering what the cost will be to use blockchain for every bid request.

It’s hard to say whether blockchain will grow into the programmatic auditor it was born to be, but one thing we hold to be true at Quantifi Digital is working with your DSP to audit your own purchases as much as possible is truly valuable. DSPs can have sophisticated reporting suites that list programmatic data to help you assess your purchases and detect fraud. Also, DSPs should work with you and on your behalf to find fraud before it gets out of hand through its own internal processes.

At Quantifi Digital, our digital strategy team works hard to understand the programmatic landscape. We buy display and pre-roll ads strategically and look ahead to the future for the best audience targeting, pixel tracking, audience mapping, and more. The programmatic industry is working to be better everyday, and the online ad environment will only continue to grow larger and more powerful.