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Blockchain Buzz Could Overshadow the Benefits: Q&A with IAB Working Group Co-Chairs

blockchain working group

Blockchain is already changing the way global industries perform transactions and share data. And now, the IAB Tech Lab is kicking off a Blockchain Working Group to explore ways to leverage blockchain to improve efficiency and value realisation in digital advertising. Richard Bush, chief product and technology officer, NYIAX, and Michael Palmer, global director product, [m]Platform, GroupM, co-chairs of the working group, talk about how the IAB Tech Lab plans on working to help the industry get their heads around, and establish best practices around, using blockchain for advertising.

The IAB Tech Lab has established a new working group to address blockchain, how do the groups work and benefit the industry? And why did the IAB decide to focus on blockchain?

The IAB Tech Lab was set up with the mission of supporting a trustworthy supply chain, creating better ad experiences and simplifying and standardising measurement by providing the industry with specifications and protocols, software tools and code libraries, and offering compliance services. Historically, this has been done by the creation of working groups that are comprised of individuals and organisations representing roles that exist across the digital advertising ecosystem.

IAB has decided to focus on blockchain technologies at this point because recently the evolution of these technologies and their application has reached the point where they can be leveraged to help meet real life challenges facing IAB’s members and the advertising business they conduct on a daily basis.

What are some of the advantages of using blockchain in advertising?

The blockchain paradigm offers uniquely practical solutions to a set of sticky problems around the granting of trust to possibly anonymous members and the validity of communally kept datasets shared between those members. When these solutions are combined with the network, they effect some very exciting possibilities around a number of existing and emerging challenges in the digital space.

What are the fundamental characteristics of blockchain that the advertising industry needs to understand?

Some important, but not all, characteristics of the blockchain include:

  1. Trusted database shared between untrusted hosts: Data stored on the blockchain is viewable by all members of the blockchain network and any effort to modify this data by a single member or minority of the network’s membership at a later date will be instantly detectable by all members of the network. This gives an added level of trust to the data stored in the blockchain.
  2. Permanence of record on the blockchain: Because modifications made to an individual record in the blockchain, after it has been added to the blockchain, are trivially easy to detect by all members of the blockchain network, a blockchain is top choice for tracking the history of an asset or process.
  3. Public vs private blockchains: Blockchains exist in two different forms, public and private, and there are tradeoffs between these two types of blockchains.
Are there particular standards or protocols that stand out immediately that need to be addressed right away?

Richard Bush, IAB Blockchain Working Group Co-Chair

While there are several fields in which we feel blockchain technologies could be used to strengthen existing standards and protocols, at this time, we do not feel that an overly hasty approach would help in addressing problems in question or help to build consensus around blockchain utilisation in the digital advertising space. That said, it’s clear from initial conversations that a focus on supply chain challenges and data transfer and control are high on the list that we mentioned in our initial blog post.

What are the challenges the advertising industry faces in order to use blockchain technology?

Michael Palmer, IAB Blockchain Working Group Co-Chair

Education about the strengths and limitations of using blockchain functionality will be a significant challenge; we need to make sure the buzz about blockchain does not overshadow the real benefits that the technology can create. As with any new technology, collaboration is vital, especially given blockchain network-based approach; we see this as both the opportunity and the challenge, key to this will be defining the joint incentive for a complex set of actors in our ecosystem.

What are the initial milestones the group is looking to accomplish? What are the next steps?

Our initial goals are simple, set the direction via a roadmap for the group, as part of this will prioritise the scope of the initial standards and protocols effort, we will do this as part of our working group kickoff in November. Also, education on both the technical definitions and the applicable business use cases. Last but not least, we are encouraging participation from both the advertising and blockchain industries, so far we are excited with the response to our call for working group members.