CANNES – Who would ever have thought that the world’s biggest festival for celebrating creativity in marketing would have ended up discussing artificial intelligence, blockchain and cognitive technologies?

Those were some of the trends on the lips of ad execs as Cannes Lions got underway early this week – but how could they help advertisers?

In the latest development, tech companies are pitching a whole new way of conducting digital transactions as a cure-all for the many transparency issues now being suffered in a world replete with ad-tech platforms.

“The publisher only gets 35 cents on the dollar versus 85 cents on the dollar, the marketer’s money is not working as hard, nobody knows exactly who’s getting what,” says IBM’s Babs Rangaiah, executive partner at IBM iX, the tech giant’s interactive experience division.

“With blockchain for media, you’ll be able to have total transparency – who’s getting what, exactly what each company is doing, why they’re getting paid that. A lot of the issues in programmatic … are the kind of things that, done right, blockchain can help solve. I’m looking to help the programmatic space by building a blockchain for that.”

For the uninitiated, a blockchain is a public, distributed, anonymised ledger of transactions that is supremely trackable and traceable. It is the technology that underpins digital currencies like Bitcoin, but, in theory, those “transactions” don’t have to be monetary.

IBM has already brought its Watson AI tech to bear on advertising, acquiring The Weather Company and, together, offering a system through which brands could make interactive brand assistants, for example. Now IBM’s Rangaiah wants to go further, using blockchain’s transparency, which comes as a default, to pitch to an advertising community plagued by concerns over opaque practices.

“Because it’s a clear supply chain, it’ll also be ad-tech players in that mix that will no longer be necessary,” he says. “If everybody has the same information, you won’t need every single one of them.

“I’m exploring a pilot as we speak right now with a big client, a big agency and various partners and players. We’re going to start that probably in the next month or so. We’d like to open it up to the industry at large.