Welcome to Chain Smoke by LdC
A new section for Advertising Week where digi-cultural trend analyst Lauren deLisa Coleman will be exploring the provocative intersection of blockchain/emerging tech and advertising via text, video and audio to help advertising professionals better understand the ad business applications one of the most powerful technologies of our time.
Perhaps the biggest buzz of the Cannes Lions Festival has been the anticipated power and impact of blockchain on the advertising industry. From a wealth of official panels on the subject, to edgy, roundtable discussions at the Digital Futures Council (want urls?) at their invitation-only villa, blockchain is the subject of many, many conversations here on site.
The main task? To better understand the technology and how to apply it. And, quite frankly, much of the interest has reached a near fever pitch among certain collectives at the Festival.
Ivo Georgiev, Founder & CEO, AdEx Network and an attendee at this year’s Cannes Lions explains, “I think the hype comes from a combination of healthy excitement over an ground-breaking technology, along with misunderstanding and greed.” Georgiev feels that the such misunderstanding comes from a true lack of knowledge regarding the capabilities of the technology, which is that it is a decentralized consensus.
“But so many people are currently thinking it’s a silver bullet that just magically introduces transparency and immutability.” This sentiment coupled with the fact that the technology is linked to revenue as well as an influx of people from all backgrounds, creates confusion and fantasy. “It’s obvious that when you have a really amazing technology, that’s widely misunderstood and thought of as a quickfix, coupled with a gold rush, that’s going to mean a lot of hype,” says Georgiev.”
“I think having decentralization and trust that this technology can bring is extremely important because at the moment, the adtech industry suffers a lot from many middle parties taking a cut from a certain pocket,” adds Georgiev.
Indeed, this is about separating truth from myth and moving very carefully in the space. “I think having decentralization and trust that this technology can bring is extremely important because at the moment, the adtech industry suffers a lot from many middle parties taking a cut from a certain pocket,” adds Georgiev. He feels that the ability to move from manipulation of data reporting to that which is more decentralized is ground-breaking to me.”
However the conversations during the Festival will only be the when it comes to this. “There are simply going to be many, many hurdles,” says Georgiev, “because the ad business and tech are extremely disconnected.” He feels that the road will be a very long and interesting one since neither side truly understands the other just yet, therefore the full capacity will take time to realize.
And then, there’s Tom Graham serial entrepreneur and co-founder MEDIA Protocol who is attending the Festival. His company’s approach could be quite the game-changer.
MEDIA Protocol provides options for advertisers to completely by-pass or add to previous digital media planning. Incentivizing consumers to interact with ads by paying them has been much-discussed over the years, but Graham’s approach may actually turn the promise into the pot of gold. The company has designed a system that, in essence, replaces the standard url attached to an advertisement with a smart URL that, when engaged with, allows the consumer to earn MEDIA Protocol cryptocurrency tokens which he or she could collect and either exchange for fiat currency or, for example in the case of an outlet such as The New York Times, exchange for access to paywalls. Various levels of advertising engagement yields various numbers of tokens.
If this model works, it could mean a whole new economy. It is this perspective which Graham brings to all the hype around blockchain here in Cannes.
“New companies are coming for people’s business models, and they are simply not prepared,” he says.
“I’ve seen a couple of intriguing companies during the Festival that are really trying to disrupt, too,” explains Graham. “But most other established companies are just trying to use blockchain in a way to simply do what they are already doing, rather than truly disrupt.” Graham says that so very many companies are completely wide open at the moment. “New companies are coming for people’s business models, and they are simply not prepared,” he says. “This is about money. You don’t have to ask any of the current players for permission to create new ways around old business models, particularly in the ad industry. That’s why this is such a hot topic of discussion here at the conference.”
Graham likens the current moment in the blockchain space to that of the breakthrough moment of the Internet where those not ahead of the curve, will be made obsolete.
“Let’s face it. Every smart and interesting developer is currently creating protocols to disrupt large, incumbent organizations. These people are coming for your jobs. They don’t need your permission and you can’t stop them. That’s why everyone will be talking about this through the end of this Festival and well beyond.”