LONDON: Originally developed in 2008 by the mysterious figure Satoshi Nakamoto, blockchain has emerged from the recesses of the dark web into a technology that will soon disrupt digital advertising, and provide a way to purge the industry of ongoing fraud problems, a new WARC Trends Snapshot explains.

Put simply, “a blockchain is a type of shared, continuously-updated, chronologically-ordered database”, in which each individual record (‘block’) is distributed across a network with a link to the previous block.

The distribution of information this way creates an immutable public record which cannot be changed by one party. (For more, subscribers can read WARC’s exclusive report: Blockchain explained.)

This is the essence of the technology’s security: “The more participants in each blockchain, the more secure it is, as any hacker must control over 50% of the blockchain’s computing power to manipulate transactions.”

Typically associated with disruption of financial services, blockchain is now being touted as a key technology through which the industry could combat ad fraud, among other challenges facing the ad industry.

“The theory goes: if a publisher has 100 million impressions available on its website and apps, then the blockchain could record all transactions for that inventory, meaning it could detect fake inventory created through ‘domain spoofing’.”

A handful of brands are taking the reins in this space. Comcast’s Advanced Advertising Group revealed its Blockchain Insights Platform at Cannes Lions festival this year, an alliance of global publishers that use the technology to share insights from anonymised audience data.

“This new technological approach would make data-driven video advertising more efficient and consumer data more secure,” said Marcien Jenckes, President, Advertising at Comcast Cable.

Others have suggested that the industry as a whole may be initially resistant to adopting the technology. However, Hugo Pinto, Managing Director, Digital GTM Resources, at Accenture Digital, noted that the forthcoming GDPR legislation in the EU could accelerate the adoption.

“How do you keep track on which data an entity has permission to use, and how are they going to get permission from the end user? This is going to be a very, very big problem,” he said.

Challenges remain for adoption, not least that the technology is still far off the scale necessary for it to play a role in advertising. Meanwhile, the inherent transparency may put off some publishers who do not wish to reveal how much they charge for inventory.

Data sourced from WARC, Comcast; additional content by WARC staff