CANNES — Worries from ad buyers and sellers over how portions of their money get siphoned off by ad-tech platforms have prompted an “inertia” in which players have become reticent to try new tools.

But a panel of industry executives convened by Beet.TV debated how blockchain technology could usher in a new era of transparency that could unblock this bottleneck.

The panelists were all members of “a blockchain consortium for the digital media supply chain”, announced by IBM and Mediaocean at the Cannes Lions festival:

  • Unilever global media VP Rob Master
  • Kimberly-Clark global director of integrated marketing, media, and analytics  Josh Herman
  • Mediaocean CEO Bill Wise
  • IBM executive partner for global marketing for IBM’s iX division Babs Rangaiah

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.

Pfizer and Kellogg are also members of what IBM calls a “consortium”. Details of how that group will operate are not clear, but the theory goes that a blockchain – in this case, one powered by IBM’s existing open-source Hyperledger infrastructure and plugged in to technology from Mediaocean, which mediates trades between buyers and sellers – should enable traceability for how every fraction of a cent gets decided, apportioned and siphoned off in the ad supply chain.

Moderating, Forrester VP and principal analyst Joanna O’Connell said the analyst firm estimated fraud and non-viewable impression wastage at $7.4 billion in 2016, projected to rise. She asked the panel how blockchain will benefit…

Unilever global media VP Rob Master:

“There is a lot of darkness and the lack of transparency and accountability. Are we serving (ads) to actual human beings and not bots? Are people actually able to see our advertising?

“This MVP (minimum viable product) with IBM and the promise of blockchain – actually, really at an exponential pace – scale the opportunity to really clean things up and provide a much cleaner digital ecosystem.”

Kimberly-Clark global director of integrated marketing, media, and analytics  Josh Herman|:

“There’s been a little opacity as the industry matured and grew up – (there are) logical reasons, as the CMO has to traipse across the Lumascape and figure out how to put the Lego blocks (of software) together. You can only have complexity as a result.

“As a company (like ours) that’s 145 years old, you only have the right to survive or thrive if you either invent transformational technology or identify transformational technology that will allow you continue evolving. And so blockchain is one of those transformational technologies”

Mediaocean CEO Bill Wise

“This blockchain solution is actually going to be across all media – TV, print, radio, out-of-home, all forms of digital – because all media eventually is going to be connected through an IP address. So the plumbing for linear or traditional media is going to look more like digital.

“We think that’s why this solution is not a Mediaocean solution or an IBM solution. It’s an industry solution that we all need to prosper.”

IBM executive partner for global marketing for IBM’s iX division Babs Rangaiah:

“The great thing about what blockchain will do and what transparency provides is, you can figure out who the good guys are and you can figure out who the bad guys are. What we’re doing is setting up the underlying technology to be able to allow everyone to know what’s going on.

“There’s always going to be new issues that arise with transparency. We will catch those issues as they arise, or shortly thereafter”

This video is part of a series produced at Cannes Lions 2018 on the emergence of blockchain in the media ecosystem. This series is presented by Mediaocean. For more videos from the series, visit this page.