Since we last wrote about blockchain in August, the technology has exploded as a martech buzzword, fuelled a cryptocurrency investment bubble (which subsequently burst) and has been hailed as the potential saviour of the NHS.

To recap, blockchain is an immutable, public, distributed ledger that allows transactions to be confirmed by a decentralised network of stakeholders. It therefore negates the need for a centralised arbiter or established trust between participants. It is impenetrably secure by design, meaning that entries cannot be modified or deleted, and the identity of participants is verified (but not necessarily disclosed) through public-key encryption.
Numerous start-ups are now emerging in this space, each offering a blockchain solution to one of several issues in the digital advertising industry.

MetaX has launched its Ads.txt Plus, which seeks to solve the issue of outdated records in standard ads.txt files. Measurement company Kochava has built XCHNG, a high-speed buying solution that aims to fully unify the concepts of blockchain and digital advertisers to the advantage of media buyers. NYIAX, which has been co-developed by Nasdaq, is the first blockchain-powered ad exchange, and is built on the framework that powers the financial stock exchange.

Without a doubt, the biggest issue in digital right now is the looming rollout of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) in May. Some are speculating that it might thwart months of progress in programmatic ad buying – but a start-up called MadHive claims that blockchain can offer its own solution to this conundrum.

The current model of housing user data in a central store may become less viable as users opt not to share their personal data with marketing and advertising companies. MadHive’s solution is based on personal data being cryptographically sealed on a user’s device, which “asks” for appropriate advertising rather than being pushed messages from a central adserver. This way, personal information need not be shared or stored externally, yet ads can still be relevant and appropriate for the user.

These are just a few examples, and in these early days we have yet to see which of them present viable long-term, meaningful solutions to martech issues – their potential impact is still debateable.
While we’re excited about the prospect of blockchain, we’re cautious; as with any technology, it’s rare for the early adopters to be the eventual winners.