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.

Over the last year, businesses of all kinds have explored the potential it offers to record every action and modification in a distributed ledger.

Chad Andrews knows. “We did a joint venture with Maersk,” says the global solutions leader, advertising and blockchain, at IBM. “Just by digitizing the global shipping supply chain process, the World Trade Organization said that is deployed at scale, we’ll have a 5% overall impact on world GDP, which is about three and a half trillion dollars.”

For advertising buyers and sellers, who, over the last couple of years, have been plagued by the creeping realisation that much of their money is siphoned off by intermediary platforms without full disclosure, that could be mana from heaven. Blockchain could shine a spotlight on every fraction of a cent that might be taken by links in the chain.

“If you look at the media buying supply chain, it’s just wrought, particularly with digital inefficiencies,” Andrews adds. “We all know somewhere between 50 and 60+ cents can disappear between the advertiser and the publisher, and 75% of ads are viewed for less than a second.

“So it begs the question: ‘Is that money really going in the middle of the supply chain, really going to performance?’ The true answer is in many cases, we don’t know.”

With blockchain, IBM, and several other smaller companies also now offering blockchain-for-advertising solutions, aim to find out.

It used Cannes Lions to announce, with Mediaocean, what they are calling “a blockchain consortium for the digital media supply chain”, with brands like Unilever, and Kimberly Clark and Kellogg.

Andrews says it is about “tracing the life cycle of the media, buy from budget to PO (purchase order) to authorization, to the deal from the publisher all the way through invoicing and payments”.

“Once we’ve established that in later phases, we’re going to start to look at the vendor supply chain and the costs that are being charged across the change in the effort to start optimizing media delivery,” he says.

The consortium will first be piloted. After announcing early brand partners, IBM will be announcing participating agencies and suppliers.

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.