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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

How blockchain can – and can’t – help advertisers navigate TV and video

March 24, 2020 | By Jason Manningham, General Manager, Blockgraph – FreeWheel @FreeWheel

The global blockchain market has seen rapid expansion, with investment expected to exceed $60 billion by 2024. This technology is not always the best option for all use cases – particularly those where high-speed data transmission is key. However, blockchain does have a number of characteristics that make it highly suited to TV and video advertising. Fortunately, the use of blockchain-based systems is not an all or nothing proposition.

What most people don’t realize is that blockchain is not one technology, but a comprehensive system of several interconnected technical capabilities. An immutable ledger, distributed databases, cryptography, consensus rules, and peer-to-peer networking all contribute to blockchain’s functionality. By assembling these base technologies into blockchain-based systems, engineers and entrepreneurs worldwide have just begun to scratch the surface of potential applications.

Within the advertising ecosystem, blockchain can be applied across a number of interesting use cases. Peer-to-peer networking and cryptography can be incorporated into the workflow as a way of reducing costs, removing friction between data owners and those who wish to benefit from such data, and creating more scalable, automated supply chains. Use cases extend throughout the media buying process, from planning and execution, to measurement and attribution. 

One use case where blockchain is particularly applicable is enabling data-driven TV and video advertising in a secure and privacy efficient manner. This is achieved through peer-to-peer data matching using encryption techniques and without reliance on third party providers.

Enabling addressability at scale

Linear TV advertising reaches large audiences with engaging content in a trusted, brand safe environment. And digital video advertising offers sophisticated data-driven targeting. As the two parts of the ecosystem converge, advertisers want the best of both, and are expecting 40% of total TV advertising to be data-enabled by this year. The ability to apply data to accurately target relevant prospects and customers at the desired frequency, and then effectively measure business outcomes, will prove the value of TV advertising and ensure it has a healthy, competitive future. 

Today’s viewers can access premium video content via a seemingly infinite variety of channels and devices, including linear, video-on-demand streaming, direct to consumer, connected TV and mobile. These various touchpoints produce billions of gigabytes of data, but it is difficult to use this information at scale to build a comprehensive view of the advertiser’s target audience, generate insight and inform media buys.

Advertisers are keen to activate their customer data by matching it across different distributors, inventory owners, or TV networks, enabling better ad targeting, measurement and reporting. But the process of audience resolution currently relies on third parties outside of the supply chain, which adds friction in terms of expense and turnaround time, as well as limiting data control. Almost two-fifths of marketers cite data matching or identity resolution among the top three barriers to using data for building TV advertising segments.  

Blockchain-inspired peer-to-peer technology is making addressability at scale a reality by establishing a safe identity layer for advertising. By recognizing and connecting cross-channel data points to target audiences, it allows advertisers to match their customers with inventory partners across the TV and video ecosystem, without revealing any of their proprietary data. Advertisers can identify their audiences and reach them via multiple channels and devices, without being reliant on third-party services. The technology also enriches the viewer’s experience by making it more relevant and engaging. It also adds business value for publishers who can augment their video inventory with valuable audience insights.

Optimizing security and privacy

Of course, the use of data for audience resolution and ad targeting is complicated somewhat by data regulation, with all participants in the ecosystem having to ensure they use and share data in a privacy compliant manner. With protecting data privacy currently a top priority for advertisers, any use of personal information for targeting must be respectful of user preferences.

Again, blockchain-based protocols like peer-to-peer networking and cryptography answer many of these needs by enabling data connectivity without exposing underlying data. Raw data never leaves the owner’s environment. And participants of the network can securely link audiences without having to centralize data or expose it to third parties.

These tools enable advertisers to respect their customers’ right to privacy by keeping any identifiable information safe from third-party access and providing full control over which queries from other network participants they answer. Therefore, advertisers can make the most of their customer data, using it to generate insights and make media buying more efficient.

After a couple of years of hype and experimentation, blockchain technology is now becoming understood for what it is – a complex interplay of technologies, which can be unpacked for use cases to which its individual properties are best suited. By enabling data connectivity across the converging TV ecosystem, while at the same time maintaining data control and protecting customer privacy, blockchain-inspired protocols are helping to realize the promise of audience-based, data-driven TV and premium video buying at scale across all channels and devices. 

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