Faaez Samadi
Sep 29, 2017

The next ad revolution: Blockchain

Blockchain will revolutionise the advertising industry, and any brand that doesn't get on board will be left far behind, according to Ian McKee.

Ian McKee at Spikes Asia
Ian McKee at Spikes Asia

Blockchain will break advertising all over again, according to Ian McKee, consultant and founder of Vocanic, which he sold to WPP three years ago.

“Compared to what social media and internet did to advertising, this thing is 100 times larger,” he stated. “I’m quite sure of all the names we see out there [at Spikes Asia 2017], eight out of 10 won’t make it to the next transition.”

Strong words indeed, but McKee said the application of blockchain technology goes far beyond just cryptocurrencies, and will soon reinvent the ways brands and advertisers interact with consumers.

“Do you realise how much of your life you have abdicated responsibility, through trust, to other organisations?” he asked. When you add it up, it’s a hell of a lot. Blockchain will “cut out the middlemen” in numerous industries, and advertising is no different. 

He highlighted Brave, a new browser being developed by Brendan Eich, creator of Javascript and Mozilla (so a big deal). Brave uses a blockchain-based digital advertising process, with a currency—the Basic Attention Token—that allows users to control when an advertiser can serve an ad to them, and even get paid for it by the advertiser.

“Think about that: advertisers paying users to see ads," McKee said. "Programmatic, all of that, it’ll be irrelevant. User behaviour will determine whether an advertiser is even allowed to send an ad to a user.”

Other companies are developing blockchain-based identity management platforms for brands, publishers and people, while yet another, Datum, is looking to put users in control of their information online, and have advertisers pay them for access to it.

McKee admitted that these blockchain processes “are not here today”, but the revolution is most certainly underway.

“Five years will go by and this stuff will be mainstream and real. The challenge for organisations and brands is how they reinvent themselves to communicate with consumers.”

McKee pointed out that Google, Apple and others are already working on next generation browsers that have e-wallets that accept cryptocurrencies, which could accelerate the adoption of blockchain among the masses.

Asked whether blockchain developers and advocates need to do a better job educating consumers, he said absolutely not.

“That’s a typical brand marketer’s thought,” he said. "Amazon didn’t do one bit of educating the market. It had a great product. People were initially sceptical of putting their credit card details into a browser. But look now. Don’t waste your money [on education].”

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