Even the world’s most-known chocolate company is adding its name to the board of a key blockchain consortium, along with a handful of advertising companies.
Publicis Media, The Hershey Company and audience-based buying conference Gabbcon are joining the board of AdLedger, a nonprofit organization for promoting blockchain uses and standards for digital advertising. AdLedger—founded last year by IBM, Tegna and the blockchain company MadHive—has been adding a variety of reputable industry names to its roster, including GroupM, Omnicom and Coindesk IPG Reprise Digital. The benefits of the board are twofold: to gather feedback from respected players and stakeholders while also attempting to signal to the broader digital advertising ecosystem that blockchain is more than a buzzword.
Among the newest board members is Yale Cohen, who leads digital investment and standards at Publicis Media. He said the agency sees AdLedger as a way to create industry-wide standards for blockchain in its early days while also exploring how it might be used to build trust within digital advertising through reducing fraud in the marketplace.
Publicis already has a few dozen people across the agency who are devoted to working on blockchain solutions for advertising. However, he said there are still a lot of questions—not to mention industry-wide confusion—as to what blockchain can and can’t do.
“Blockchain is still one of the shiny objects in the room,” he said. “I think the promise of being able to solve for numerous solutions helps to keep the conversations going.”
Also joining the board is former Omnicom global CEO Barry Cupples, who recently became CEO of the London out-of-home agency Talon. He described industry discussions about transparency in digital advertising as “a one-legged duck syndrome where you swim in a circle and don’t really get anywhere,” but said AdLedger has an opportunity to address digital advertising issues often difficult for agencies to adeptly maneuver.
“We’re in a really dynamic place in marketing and advertising,” he said. “So much immense and rich data … and still nobody is really grasping it as well as they should.”
Despite the promises of blockchain, Cupples understands why there’s been so much tire-kicking. He said companies developing blockchain solutions need to still show more evidence that their services are capable and valuable enough to improve transactions and other deliverables.
But that’s not stopping all brands from giving blockchain a shot. Vinny Rinaldi, head of addressable media and technology for The Hershey Company, said he first became interested in the technology back in 2017 as vice president of audience platforms for Dentsu Aegis. Digital ad campaigns that incorporate blockchain could potentially help with measurement, he said, and he’s already spoken with companies like blockchain-based programmatic advertising reporting firm Amino Payments.
The Hershey Company is, perhaps, in a better position than others when it comes to experimenting with new forms of digital media. Until four years ago, 97 percent of the company’s ad spend was on traditional TV. However, he said Hershey is shifting into other avenues, such as streaming platforms like Twitch and social media apps like Snapchat. It’s also thinking about advertising more like direct-to-consumer brands, like Allbirds and Peloton.
“Right now, it’s the audience focus, but there are a lot of nuances that we’re trying to implement,” he said. “We’re this huge iconic brand, [but] we’re trying to take the approach that D-to-C companies take to media buying.”
For The Hershey Company, the applications for blockchain go beyond the world of advertising and into the chocolate factories. That could mean tracing cacao “from bean to bar,” which Rinaldi said could be “revolutionary” for the business.
“This would be a fundamentally massive shift in the way that we think,” he said.