Every day, ads overrun us in our online journey. While this is necessary to keep many free services we constantly use in business, they are also heavily misaligned. We ignore most of the ads we see, find them intrusive, irrelevant and wasting our bandwidth. For the same reason, many companies are also spending ad dollars without seeing sufficient return.
But there are those who are benefiting from this model. After all, digital marketing has overtaken TV ads and it is a medium where marketers can measure the success of their campaigns and adjust accordingly. Google and Facebook are dominating the digital advertising industry. Amazon is currently in fifth place with nearly $2 billion in revenue for the first quarter of this year, but it is catching up fast as more advertisers turn to it.
Advertisers typically look for the company who can “get the word out” about them most efficiently, but they face a dilemma; most of them know by heart that many of the people they target really don’t need their products. However, they assume that if they just keep popping up all the time (and perhaps crack a joke or get undressed), eventually the consumer will surrender and buy. But here is the thing: if the consumer does not trust you, the impact will be minimal.
No one “hates” shopping –quite opposite, people love a good purchase. A good purchase requires knowledge of the products, but no one ever tells an advertiser that they are looking for a new car because they would instantly start spamming us. We prefer to keep that information private because we suspect it would be misused to sell us snake oil instead of really valuable products. In an era where consumers don’t trust advertisers, advertisers are forced to rely on middlemen like Google and Amazon to hint them at what could work best for them.
The reason is simple: Google knows the customers’ intent, Facebook knows the demographics and Amazon knows what many consider as the most important piece of the puzzle: what people buy. However, this puzzle still lacks one missing (and often overlooked) piece: the consumers. The current advertising business is primarily designed to serve the ad networks – not the companies or the clients. Here is where blockchain could help.
A new era
Blockchain is about decentralization and removing middle parties. There are four players in the digital advertising world: ad networks, companies, publishers and visitors. Companies are the ones who want to sell their products or services, and they do so via the “publishers.” The publishers, such as web admins, are the ones running a website and attract visitors, and the companies alike.
The ad networks sit between the companies and the publishers, match them up and take a huge cut in return. This is the player blockchain aims to remove and optimize the system to run only between companies, publishers and visitors.
By removing the ad networks, the cost for advertising will significantly drop for companies. Furthermore, there are no banks involved so transactions are much easier and faster, which is particularly important as advertisers target a global market. But this is not the only benefit.
Blockchain offers immutability, which essentially means a tamper-proof record of everything that has taken place on the network. This means everyone can track the customers’ journey: where and when they started interacting with an ad and what the results where. This also leads to transparency, as both the company and the publishers have correct metrics of the impressions and clicks.
Like always, specific blockchain projects add more features to these general concepts. For instance, BAT gives users full control of the ads they see and even pays them for the ads they watch. To track the watch time, the project collaborates with the Brave browser, which ironically comes with built-in ad blockers.
No matter how promising, currently the digital advertising industry is dominated by centralized enterprises. This can eventually change, as more and more people turn to ad blockers and concerns around privacy and information tracking are beginning to rise. Eventually, the buyers are the people that are currently spammed so the ultimate winner would be the one that really takes the customers’ best interest into account. With blockchain, we are moving one step closer to giving power to the individuals.