We all know that blockchain is now rattling the financial markets, pushing its way through the dusty ledgers of the past, and establishing the decentralised databases of the future. We are all well acquainted with ICOs — the most radical, thriving forerunners being IOTA, Ripple, Circle and Cardano. Bitcoin, now an aged hull peppered with repeatedly hurled bullets of dissatisfaction, has slunk away into the midst: leaving behind the fresher, newer buds, pushing their way out of darkened soil, petals quivering in the flush of new light.
Each industry is slowly being turned inside out, ruptured from the inside, caved in to make way for a fresher, creamier, filling. What’s the key motivator, driven deep within the core? Innovation — a desire to solve problems, to diminish obstacles. The most successful uses of digital to date have provided the solution to heavy, concrete, all-encompassing problems, from the most feather-light to the outrageously urbane: Facebook assuaged Mark Zuckerberg’s feelings following a heinous breakup; Napster was built upon the merest whim, and culminated in the fully-fledged disruption of the music industry, and the birth of precursors — iTunes, and Google Play Music. Startups are established amidst blood, sweat and sodden banknotes: created in order to solve one problem, then progressing into resolving another: Paypal transformed from a provider of security software into a burgeoning electronic wallet, supporting the eBay auction community and still facilitating almost every fiat transaction online (a solid, foundational precursor to our current crypto-wallet system). The startup community is dynamic, flagrant and every-expanding, in the manner of the headless dragon of old: hack off or liquidate the one, another will thrust it way up, oozing venture capital and unencumbered hopes.
Admit it — when you think crypto, you think finance. Certainly, the financial markets have capitalised most noticeably from the emergence of blockchain technology: Bitcoin being the most obvious, bulbous disruptor. The capacity of blockchain has been sorely underestimated, if the stolid, gravelled cavern of finance remains the only area to be noticeably hacked into. Blockchain technology — the most versatile, extensive invention to date — has the ability to irrevocably alter each industry, from the most archaic to the incipient futuristic: as it happens, the media industry stands to benefit the most.
Why? Intellectual property. Inside every individual is the desire to retain rights over our hard-gained knowledge, to stack up our internal microchips with increasing fervour, clutching each digital asset to our chests with the tenacity of a child clinging onto a much-loved, moth-eaten toy (or in this case, chromed). We are the generation to whom a stamp upon property is mandatory; every digital production must be accounted for, through a hastily-designed watermark, a much scrounged for digital patent, an Instagram credit. Since the early browser-based games of 2005, when we squinted desperately at screens infused with pixelation and contrivance, sweating over primitive Word Art/Times New Roman creations — at its core, we experienced the first subtle, glimmering impression of digital autonomy. Now, this latent yearning for personal control remains as strong and tangible as ever. And finally, in 2018, this rapacious desire can be satisfied: through the blockchain.
Let’s cut it down to the basics. Blockchain, the world’s esteemed shared, distributed digital ledger, allows for visibility, transparency and efficiency — none of which appear to feature prominently within the media/advertising industry at present. Through a distributed ledger, we are able to view the blockchain, collaborate with co-creators, and occupy a place within the system. The cryptographic elements of blockchain technology are at the most advanced stage possible: privacy control has never been more efficient.
Why does advertising even need blockchain? Let’s hark back to the prehistoric days of traditional advertising – purchasing ad space was neither cost-effective nor time-efficient. Thankfully, programmatic purchasing was then introduced – allowing for real-time bidding. Programmatic buying seemed, at first, to be the perfect solution: advertisers can easily target the right audience, in the right context, and at the right time. The disadvantages? Also numerous: a dramatic increase in online fraud, for one. Clicks, views and likes can be very easily manufactured through the use of bots. Another problem: the highly irritating, yet necessary presence of middlemen. Are they efficient? No. Do they incur an additional, unnecessary expense? Yes.
So, how can the blockchain provide assistance? First and foremost – validation, in the form of the BAT (Basic Attention Token). This is a utility token built upon the Ethereum blockchain, which is able to tag a piece of creative and track it throughout its perilous, cumbersome journey across the planes of digital. A distinctive startup within this sphere is undoubtedly adChain: a piece of creative is tracked, its user interactions are thoroughly examined, and the legitimacy of clicks can be verified. What’s not to like?
More disruptive startups? We’ve got an ever-increasing selection to choose from: Publiq, Userfeeds and Clearcoin being my current favourites. I was fortunate enough to attend (or sneak into) their launch event in October 2017, and found myself invigorated by the atmosphere, the dedication, their palpable belief in the potential of this ICO. Our “startup culture” can appear to be both beneficial and detrimental, when examining its effect upon the psyche of the individual. 75% of the time, we are intoxicated, infused by a rush of adrenaline, hopeful, primed for every change: for 35%, we are left stricken, contaminated by the dreaded FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt — and devastation). However, Publiq promises to establish a well-developed ecosystem: through rewarding writers through their personal efforts, thereby protecting the delicate architecture of creative output. Publiq enables “censorship free” generation, selection and assessment of content: in other words, freedom and independence for content creators. Userfeeds is another incredible example of this: it utilises an economic incentive in order to rank content suitably – a dynamic, effectual form of ranking which will undoubtedly produce long-term, propitious change.
We’re hardly shoving round pegs into square holes here. The advertising industry is, at its core, decentralized: the introduction of blockchain does not precipitate a radical change, but rather a gradual, integrated step up – an incumbent step up the strenuous path of constitutive, universal adoption.