IBM wants to put Blockchain into the ad buying workflow

By using Blockchain, the system can allow ad buyers, agencies and networks to all retain their systems of record but also have a unified system that displays the same information to everyone. (deavmi/Wikimedia Commons)

Blockchain often gets lumped in with decentralized cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, but IBM is working on a plan to use Blockchain as a tool to help simplify and speed up the television ad buying and selling process.

Peter Guglielmino, chief technology officer of global media and entertainment at IBM, said that Blockchain aspects like trust and immutability can be applied to create a unified audit trail for all parties involved in the buying, selling and airing of TV ads.

In particular, he said that IBM’s Blockchain solution can help alleviate the reconciliation process for ad buying—matching advertising guarantees to what's actually delivered—by unifying separate systems of record and making it less manual. He added that it could result in networks being paid faster for ad inventory and could cut down on human error.


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Guglielmino said any discrepancies can be managed by exception rather than having to go through a spreadsheet line by line.

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“What we’re looking to do with Blockchain is streamline that process and provide one consistent, shared ledger—which means everybody has the same information,” said Guglielmino, adding that the solution makes sense as linear TV ad buying has shifted some to incorporate automated and programmatic technology.

By using Blockchain—which works by creating lists of records and linking and securing them through cryptography—the system can allow ad buyers, agencies and networks to all retain their systems of record but also have a unified system that displays the same information to everyone. However, ad buyers won’t be able to see information concerning spots purchased by other companies, only their own spots.

He said that IBM’s Blockchain solution could also be used for frequency capping to help avoid ads deployed in multi-platform campaigns from repeating ad nauseum.

IBM is a contributor to Hyperledger, which is an open-source project from Linux, as well as having its own implementation of Hyperledger fabric, which is offered to customers so they can build their own applications. In addition, IBM offers the infrastructure to run a shared ledger.

Guglielmino said that Hyperledger is differentiated from other forms of Blockchain by not adhering too strictly to mathematical proofs, but rather using multiple forms of consensus that could include algorithms, a trusted group of endorsers that can verify transactions and an automated voting process.

In terms of where IBM’s Blockchain ad buying project is today, the company is meeting with agencies, advertisers, ratings companies, verification companies, MVPDs and networks to build a consensus on what information needs to be recorded into the Blockchain.

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