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How blockchain can save advertising supply chains

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Advertising has become unimaginably complex over the years with so many intermediaries in the supply chain. But, says DAVID BUTT, Consulting Director at Acceleration, blockchain may restore trust in the ad supply chain.

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

Many of us can identify with this well-known lament from John Wanamaker, a pioneer of marketing. He said it almost 100 years ago, but it’s still painfully applicable today.

Advertising has become unimaginably complex over the years. There are now so many intermediaries in the supply chain – including programmatic advertisers and ad tech companies – that fraud is increasingly difficult to keep at bay.

The problem is that there is very little visibility and transparency when it comes to reporting on things like when and where an ad was shown, how many views it received, and how many of those views were from actual human beings from the advertiser’s target audience.

Advertisers just can’t be sure how much of their spend is translating into actual results (clicks, subscribes, sales) and how much is going to fraudulent activity (bot traffic, click farms, domain spoofing, inflated prices and pixel stuffing).

Did you know:

Juniper Research expects wasted ad spend to reach $51 million per day this year – or $19 billion for the whole of 2018.

·         Forrester calculated that $7.4 billion was wasted on display ads alone in 2016 and that 56% of all display ad dollars were lost to fraudulent or non-viewable inventory in 2016.

These numbers are frightening. It’s no wonder that more and more businesses are bringing their media function in-house so that they have greater control over their budgets.

Blockchain: Simple and transparent

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is essentially a digital ledger in which transactions made in bitcoin or another cryptocurrency are publicly, permanently and securely recorded. It is transparent by design and cannot be ‘owned’ by any single person. Rather, the ledger is distributed among all parties, including ad tech vendors, buyers and publishers, who have complete visibility into every transaction and must collectively approve any changes to the data.

Blockchain would enforce a level of accountability and transparency that is badly needed in the ad supply chain. As a result, advertisers would be able to see exactly who bought their ad, when and where it was displayed, and who saw it. And publishers would be able to regain control of their ad space, boosting revenue.

It’s still early days

The adoption of blockchain in the ad industry is still in its infancy because as many people are wary of adopting something so new. There are a number of start-ups however, that are experimenting with the blockchain and seeing promising results. Once they can prove the value of the blockchain to advertisers and publishers, and once we have solid standards and protocols in place, I believe we will see bigger vendors start to show an interest.

With blockchain, we will be able to re-establish trust, visibility and transparency into the ad ecosystem. I believe that this will lead to the next evolution in advertising: where advertisers again feel comfortable handing over control of their budgets to trusted consultants and agencies.

Getting future ready

The underlying technology of blockchain has vast potential in many aspects of business, not only to combat ad fraud. Blockchain can support new trust models around regulatory compliance, data integrity, device integrity and distributed operations to name but a few.

It’s important to understand that blockchain, like any technology, requires an ecosystem to support it. This includes technical solutions, operating models and, most importantly, people.

The best way to prepare is to ensure you understand blockchain. Then you can begin to identify relevant use cases, map-governing principles, and test use cases against the most appropriate technology.

If you want to future-proof your business, now is the time to start understanding blockchain and proving the case for its use.

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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