IBM and Mediaocean Are Creating a Blockchain Ecosystem to Track Spending

For campaigns across digital, TV, print and out-of-home channels

The network records how digital dollars break down across the digital ecosystem. Photo Illustration: Tenzin Tsepel; Sources: Getty Images, IBM
Headshot of Marty Swant

IBM and Mediaocean are collaborating on a blockchain-enabled advertising network focused on making the programmatic buying process more transparent.

This week, the companies are unveiling a pilot program that will let brands, agencies and publishers better track how their campaigns are spent across digital, TV, print and out-of-home channels. The network—which uses a custom blockchain built by IBM on top of Mediaocean’s campaign management platform—records how digital dollars break down across the digital ecosystem while also helping to cut down on the time spent on auditing.

A pilot test beginning in July already has buy-in from several major brands including IBM, Unilever, Kellogg, Kimberly-Clark and Pfizer that plan to run campaigns throughout the year. A number of middle-layer publishers will also take part.

The network will first focus on authorizing transactions between marketers and agencies before eventually expanding more broadly through the ad-tech supply chain with publishers and measurement companies.

“The way we’re looking at the pilot is to prove out and to close the supply chain,” said Mediaocean CEO Bill Weiss. “We might start with just a handful of campaigns, we might look at it across all of our media spend.”

Babs Rangaiah, executive partner of Global Marketing at IBM iX—who spent several years as vp of global communications planning at Unilever before joining IBM in 2016—said one of the main struggles for brands is tracking and reporting ad spend across every programmatic channel. That would sometimes take several weeks talking with multiple agencies—many of which were also manually collecting information.

“We don’t necessarily need a blockchain at the ad request level,” said Rangaiah. “We need it at the spend level … How much is going to viewability and fraud? How much is going to measurement?”

The blockchain framework that IBM and Mediaocean are using is called Hyperledger Fabric, a template that’s also used by financial services firms such as J.P. Morgan along with Amazon Web Services. On top of that, IBM is adding a custom application layer that will allow companies to add various additional products and services.

This week at Cannes Lions, IBM is sponsoring a large cabana on the Croisette, where the company is playing host to a number of blockchain-focused talks among other IBM-related topics. Blockchain seems to be a topic of increased interest among advertising circles—and one that’s much more pronounced than even just a year ago.

Rangaiah recalled a keynote talk he gave at the ANA’s financial management summit just a year ago, when he asked how many people were interested in blockchain and one hand went up. Now, several companies have made or plan to make announcements about blockchain initiatives for marketers.


@martyswant martin.swant@adweek.com Marty Swant is a former technology staff writer for Adweek.
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