NEW YORK/COLOGNE: GroupM’s Rob Norman has added his voice to the growing buzz around the role that blockchain technology could play in increasing transparency in digital advertising, predicting it will be one of the “new words” at the dmexco conference, which starts today.

“I’ve never really come across anything in my career that has caused as much disturbance in the force as the concern of advertisers about the money flows and the validity of the traffic they are buying,” the media agency’s chief digital officer told Beet.TV.

He anticipated that discussions about blockchain and how it could improve supply chain quality would become ever more frequent, including at the dmexco conference in Cologne.

“It’s not that we’re suddenly going to move to a blockchain trading system,” he added, “but I think the notion that the industry needs to move to some kind of secure, permanent and transparent ledger to record what’s occurred in the processes that we’re involved in is going to become an inevitable demand from advertisers and from agencies.

“And all of the people in the ad tech business are going to have to get their heads around that.”

That process began earlier this year when the AdLedger Consortium – whose members include IBM, MadHive, Integral Ad Science, and TEGNA – held its first meeting in New York, aiming “to harness the potential of a real-time, blockchain-based, peer-to-peer network to lower costs for publishers while increasing transparency and ROI for advertisers".

A new WARC Trend Snapshot, Blockchain, sets out to demystify the technology and to caution against the idea that implementing it in this context will be straightforward.

For example, the length of time it takes to create each ‘block’ is an obstacle. “Such is the computing power required to log each transaction that only a handful can currently be processed per second – a far cry from the billions of advertising transactions taking place each second through programmatic trading.”

And not everyone involved may welcome the degree of transparency involved – publishers could be reluctant to reveal to rivals how much they change for inventory.

For blockchain to function properly and securely, there must be a degree of mass uptake from all parts of the ad ecosystem, the Snapshot reports. Standardised methods of trading – including the choice of currency and format of the ‘wallet’, where currency is stored – must be agreed beforehand.

Data sourced from Beet.TV; additional content by WARC staff