New blockchain guide by IAB Tech Lab anticipates shared ledger specs in 2020

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30-second summary:

  • IAB Tech Lab launches new guide, intended to help organizations assess blockchain for various kinds of ad-related shared ledger solutions, such as measurement, reconciliation, transparency, contract consensus and ad delivery validation.
  • It explains the concepts behind several kinds of blockchain-enhanced ad processes, including authentication of ad delivery, measurement of ad responses, order reconciliation in a private ad marketplace and other potential use cases.
  • The widespread use of blockchain-based shared ledgers could have a profound impact on the industry, which is why so many solutions are now being offered and tested.
  • Users of blockchain-based ad solutions are pioneers with few road maps, since the best practices for evaluating solutions are still being developed.

Step by step, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the IAB Tech Lab have been introducing the ad community to the possibilities of blockchain.

In February of 2018, the IAB released a white paper on the potential and use cases for blockchain in video advertising.

In July of the same year, the IAB Tech Lab unveiled a Blockchain Technology Primer with the basic concepts and terms, as well as a pilot program to evaluate projects that employ the protocol for ad tech.

Additionally, a user-contributed wiki was created to offer definitions and various resources. Now, the Lab has issued a guide to evaluating blockchain solutions for advertising.

The guide is intended to help organizations assess blockchain for various kinds of ad-related shared ledger solutions, such as measurement, reconciliation, transparency, contract consensus and ad delivery validation.

Potentially, a profound impact

Blockchain, the report notes, is “a chain of transaction data in blocks of information across several systems.”

When participants confirm the transaction, it is then added to the shared ledger, and it cannot easily be changed without the participants’ knowledge.

Since every participant has a complete copy of the blockchain that is updated when everyone’s is, this structure enables an immediately shared ledger that is close to immutable.

Some verifiable rules can be added for transaction updates to create “smart contracts,” such as delivering authority for payment once a digital ad has been delivered.

Access to data can be dependent on authentication requirements, enabling secure data records.

The guide explains the concepts behind several kinds of blockchain-enhanced ad processes, including authentication of ad delivery, measurement of ad responses, order reconciliation in a private ad marketplace and other potential use cases.

The widespread use of blockchain-based shared ledgers could have a profound impact on the industry, which is why so many solutions are now being offered and tested.

For instance, without such a shared ledger, the guide points out that “any parties in the programmatic supply chain can only see direct connections,” such as a demand side platform (DSP) connected with an advertiser.

The exchange and publisher, which will eventually be part of this chain, cannot see the DSP/advertiser transaction until there are final campaign reports, and such reports depend on the honesty and accuracy of the report maker.

In a blockchain-based tracking system, however, all events are recorded automatically and available to all parties as soon as they take place.

Suggestions for choosing blockchain solutions

But users of blockchain-based ad solutions are pioneers with few road maps, since the best practices for evaluating solutions are still being developed.

This guide takes a first stab at some of the considerations, suggesting that potential participants first look at such factors as the privacy of info, whether a blockchain is a public consortium or run privately, how publishers participate, the available metrics in the records, integrating third parties, record formats, revision support, whether cryptocurrency is required for payment and other issues.

In a blog post from Lucidity CTO/co-founder and guide author Miguel Morales accompanying the guide’s release, he points out that blockchain, for all of its promise, still faces “a few kinks.”

These include standardization of data across systems, agreed-upon reconciliation protocols and end-to-end cryptographic authentication.

This guide, he told ClickZ, is more specific in its suggestions of evaluation of solutions than was the previous Primer, and it anticipates at least two other releases from the Tech Lab in 2020: a technical specification for logging and sharing ad-related data in a blockchain environment, and a spec for connecting blockchain-based data to various kinds of identifiers, such as device IDs.

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