Blockchain and media transparency: There is a middle-way
A view from Ashley Mackenzie

Blockchain and media transparency: There is a middle-way

Following an exchange of opinions between Dan Gilbert of Brainlabs and Turth's Mary Keene-Dawson, Ashley Mackenzie chief executive of Fenestra discusses a whitepaper on the use of blockchain to solve media transparency

In the late 90s, when blockchain was a mere glint in the milkman’s eye, Tony Blair and his cronies had a problem. They faced accusations that the decision to take the Labour party in a new direction was a shallow election strategy.

Impressed by the success that Bill Clinton had enjoyed in the US with the New Democrats, Blair and Peter Mandelson worked to back up the change in party direction by applying core elements of The Third Way ideology that underpinned the modern centrist belief system.

Sitting in the middle of a heated panel debate at Campaign’s Blockchain Breakfast Briefing recently, it became clear to me that when it comes to discussing blockchain technology’s potential to resolve the industry’s transparency woes and advance the debate from ‘can it, can’t it?’, blockchain needs to have its Third Way epiphany.

However, given Blair’s recent propensity to wade into debates that don’t concern him, let’s negate the risk of him appearing on any blockchain for media panel discussions by branding it The Middle Way – a new movement to restore trust in advertising.

Blockchain solutions need a centrist mentality towards advertisers and agencies. Currently, there are two main camps: those that play into media agencies’ hands and exacerbate the business-as-usual system of opaque transactions, and those that seek to completely disintermediate media agencies.

The Middle Way embodies an inclusive model that naturally allows advertisers to ‘get their hands back on the keyboard’ but also empowers their agencies by giving them the ability to be part of a transparent supply chain and build a trusting relationship with their clients.

To show we’re serious, the team at Fenestra have worked on an industry white paper to demystify the blockchain ecosystem, mapping out the new wave of martech disruptors seeking to revolutionise the media buying supply chain. Whereas established operators such as Mediaocean and Adazzle are platforms designed for media agencies to use, new players like Adbank and AdEx are advertiser-optimised and serve to take down media buying agencies.

We all know its early days for blockchain implementation and for a solution to both solve transparency issues. Nonetheless, there are three core attributes to our manifesto for any blockchain solution to succeed. These steps lead to ‘legitimate transparency’, ultimately reversing opaque media buying practices and restoring trust between client and their advisors:

  1. All Media. In today’s integrated world, where media brands run cross-platform campaigns, both online and offline channels must be incorporated.
  2. Bespoke Protocol. Any system must support full transparency to the advertiser and their principle agency and remain fixed and permanent.
  3. Fully Atomized Visibility. The advertiser and their principle agency must be able to drill down into individual transactions, for example, an individual ad placement, if called upon. The ability to verify media buying activity on a granular level is true transparency.

What advertisers want is to be able to genuinely trust the agencies they work with, which is currently not always the case as Rob Norman, former chief digital officer of GroupM, pointed out.

Agencies and their clients have the ability today to reset their relationship, through use of blockchain technology, which is fully transparent and allows for verifiable trading practices.

Therein lies The Middle Way. I hope I have your vote?

Ashley Mackenzie is the founder and chief executive officer of blockchain-based platform Fenestra

Here are the alternative views on the whether blockchain can solve the media transparency problem: