Blockchain: we all have a self-interest

14 May 2018  |  Ashley MacKenzie 
Blockchain: we all have a self-interest

GroupM’s denunciation of blockchain technology in the advertising space is a red-herring, writes Ashley Mackenzie

WPP’s GroupM recently published it’s ‘2018 State of Digital’ report, which goes to great lengths to describe blockchain technology’s present drawbacks.

As one of the "peddlers with self-interest" it rather ungenerously refers to, you may be surprised to hear that I agree with much of what Adam Smith, GroupM's futures director, has to say. Currently, public blockchains are indeed slow and relatively expensive, and they are not appropriate technologies on which to run programmatic or RTB products.

However, technology evolves at an accelerating pace.

When we launched Base79 in 2007, YouTube went on record as saying it would not accept video advertising, and that no self-respecting brand would advertise on a “UGC site”. The problem with declarative statements is they have a habit of lying in wait and then baring their teeth and history shows all parties changed rapidly in online video.

Base79 went on to sell for $85m and played a small part in helping YouTube develop the content and commercial strategy it has today.

In returning to today and the present blockchain debate, there is no doubt that the capital and smarts focused on these issues will accelerate the rate of development in blockchain technologies, and performance issues will be solved.

Today, private, permissioned blockchains (which many of WPP's largest clients are either already using or are in the process of full-scale experimentation across their businesses) could add huge value to a marketeers armoury and reduce the amount of friction and leakage within their media supply-chain.

Interestingly, IBM (one of WPP’s sticker brands) is at the forefront of our industry developing HyperLedger, an open-source blockchain framework and code base.

In truth, GroupM’s statement is a red-herring, deliberately designed by someone peddling their own self-interest. Unless one works for a not-for-profit, we should all have the good grace to admit that.

22 years ago, 2 WPP executives - Eric Salama (now CEO, Kantar) and Martin Sorrell (knighted in 2000) - co-authored a Harvard Business Review paper called ‘The Future of Interactive Marketing’, in which they stated:

"The fact is that there is a reasonable chance that interactive media—including the Web—could transform the way we build brands and communicate them to consumers. [sic]. None of us can afford to wait or to buy the necessary skills in five years’ time. We can’t afford to assume that the new media will be unimportant".

Admirable foresight. Technology may transform, and with it bring about change for the better. Has so much changed since Sir Martin stepped down? And what reason would Mr Smith have to fear this latest wave of innovation so greatly?



Ashley Mackenzie is CEO of media blockchain company Fenestra

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