Transparency, fraud, brand-safety, and blockchain. All buzzwords that are being fired around within AdTech and its trade press. There is one connection between these all-too-often overused buzzwords: adChain.

AdChain is an open protocol that uses blockchain technology to solve digital advertising’s persistent issues of brand-safety, fraudulent traffic, and lack of financial transparency. The way this works is that there is an open access ledger, available to all parties, that tracks and reports the life cycle of an ad impression. That is the advantage of the blockchain: an open and transparent ledger, that is irreversible and practically impossible to compromise.

As an ad-fraud researcher, investigator, auditor, and consultant, it is my view that the conceptual application of adChain will solve the problems mentioned above.

It is because of the promise of adChain and its ability to solve the issues that my clients face on a regular basis, that I signed on as an advisor to the project.

Now, maybe less objectively, I want to address some fringe criticisms I have seen of this intitiative by those critics trying to paint the intentions of the parties involved with a shade of doubt. While some skepticism of the long term implementation of adChain is understandable across the industry, it is pessimistic and disingenuous to attack adChain with personal stabs at the reputations and intentions of the people working early mornings and late nights to make bring this protocol into fruition.

Legitimate questions

Let’s address the legitimate questions about adChain and its ability to scale to the volume of transactions within AdTech. While there is an enormous volume of transactions in digital advertising, exacerbated by header bidding adoption, this will be reduced significantly by only allowing buyers to bid on impressions that are verified to begin with. This not only reduces overhead infrastructure costs of the buy-side platforms, it also reduces the financial incentives for fraudulent sell-side players whose revenue streams rely on slipping into loose buying requirements.

Following the concern around blockchain applications to digital advertising is that the transaction recording mechanism cannot scale to the volume of impressions, every minute, across the AdTech ecosystem. If we took the application of blockchain as it is done for crypto-currencies, we would not be able to scale to AdTech’s requirements. But with the use of side-chains that can be reconciled with the main blockchain at the end of a billing period on the last day of every month, we can maintain the integrity offered by blockchain and apply it to the issues facing the digital advertising industry.

Blockchain is more debated in AdTech right now than it is actually understood. In reality, it is quite simple. It’s a transparent ledger that can be audited, reviewed, and scrutinised by any willing party. Unfortunately, due to its initial application, it has been more closely linked to terms like Bitcoin than it has been to terms like transparency. See here for a guide to blockchain. A better understanding the concept of blockchain should persuade any skeptics or critics of adChain about why the people working on adChain believe in the idea so strongly.

Now that we’ve covered the what and how, let’s discuss the who of adChain.

The people behind this project have not done this on a whim, nor to capitalise on a buzzword trend. The founders of adChain contemplated, debated, and deliberated the ideas for two years before organising an effort for implementation. While it is easy to throw stones at a glass house (pun intended, because glass houses are open and transparent), it’s unfair to allege that there are ill intentions fueling the drive for bringing adChain into reality.

As with any evolutionary/revolutionary idea, there are people who fear negative effects of a protocol like adChain being widely adopted. In the case of digital advertising, those parties include, but are not limited to:

  • organisations that have a long-term interest in the existence of ad-fraud;
  • organisations that have a long-term interest in the lack of transparency;
  • organisations that generate revenue from the monetisation of fraudulent web traffic and fraudulent ad impressions;
  • companies that generate revenue by on-boarding “new” publishers with no verifiable business model except traffic arbitrage;
  • individuals/organisations that distribute and monetise ad-ware.

Guess who has an interest in the concept of adChain being adopted?

  • Advertisers
  • Publishers
  • Users

MetaX and its employees are unbiased operators in the AdTech space. The interest of MetaX in building adChain to an open protocol for the benefit of all stakeholders in the digital marketing environment, is that it can be the market specialist for building the integrations and applications. The financial interest for MetaX is as simple as that.

In respect to advertisers, it’s a no-brainer proposition. Implementing adChain inherently gives them the transparency they yearn for, while also providing a clear mechanism for cleaning up their supply chains by removing the guess work involved.

Next, let’s talk about why publishers (the legitimate ones) would want adChain adoption. The current state of the digital ad impression market consists of constant demand and artificially inflated supply, leading to an artificially deflated CPM. Since adChain’s purpose is to remove the fraudulent supply from the marketplace, successful adoption will bring the supply to its true state, correcting the perceived CPM value to advertisers. If we can bring legitimate publishers a higher, corrected CPM for the actual value their ad-space provides to marketers, the incentives for artificially inflating their volume will be reduced.

Last, but not least, here is an appeal to the skeptics and critics of adChain and general market change. Please reach out and get involved. With an idea this big and with this much promise, the more critical thinking, the better. If you have a better solution, please do the work to put it forward.

Since there is so much at stake with ad-fraud we welcome all parties to respond directly with your questions and critiques of adChain.  We welcome your input, your help, your suggestions.

Please feel free to reach out to me directly with any questions, comments, concerns, and even praise.

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