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Fabien Aufrechter of Havas: blockchain – next century media buying is already here but are we ready?

Blockchain is a buzzword that seems to pique the interest of even those who don’t know what the hype is all about. When most people hear about the blockchain, initial coin offerings (ICOs), and digital currency, they often think of Bitcoin or Ether — arguably the most famed cryptocurrencies.

These are fundamentals of the crypto world. But the blockchain is more than just a shiny toy that techies and those on Wall Street find alluring. It’s more than a record of transactions that don’t need middlemen, like banks, to back it up.

Instead, the blockchain is driving a movement beyond fintech — it’s an impetus for a new economy that will be decentralized and more secured. So it’s a game changer for the advertising industry.

What’s the buzz about?

This year at Cannes Lions there was a roaring debate as to whether that change will be real or just marketing; lasting or fleeting — although most agree that the blockchain will be disruptive. Industry insiders are gearing up to make predictions about the impact of blockchain on areas like programmatic, including real-time bidding. There was talk of the blockchain’s potential effects on monetization, record keeping of consumer data, ad transparency, and even the elimination of fraud in media buying, i.e., bots.

So, will the blockchain become an eventual replacement for the ad exchange? Right now, the answer is no. It’s still too early for the blockchain to be a fully functional ad exchange, mainly because it’s much slower than our programmatic media buys. Bitcoin, for example, can only process up to seven transactions per second — compare that to the hundreds of thousands of ads sold, and served, in just one second on the ad exchange.

Looking forward

But that doesn’t mean that the blockchain doesn’t have a bright, robust future in the advertising industry.

Innovative brands are beginning to experiment with blockchain technology. In fact TD Ameritrade and Havas New York placed an ad in the blockchain. Made with ASCII art and composed of 68 different translations, TD Ameritrade planted a digital flag in the blockchain and ignited a social media firestorm. The experimental ad provided a new type of content in the crypto world, which boosted audience interaction and simply got people talking.

And consider how UNICEF in France and BETC Paris reinvented charitable donations with the Game Chaingers initiative, the first humanitarian fundraising effort using the cryptocurrency Ethereum. In just two months, this advertising campaign — based on blockchain technology — aggregated 12,000 computers and raised 85 ethers.

Another example: the launch by Havas Sports & Entertainment with Quantum and Blockchain Partner of a blockchain-based loyalty program for clubs and federations, as well as for their sponsors and partners. The technology is no longer just a buzzword or a marketing tool but a concrete solution to real problems, such as how to ensure the loyalty of sports fans when an increasing number of them simply will not pay anymore to come and see a game at a stadium.

Blockchain has moved beyond a buzzword — it’s the future. The future of secured transactions, and transparency but also of fundraising. If these technologies will imply soon enough a transformation of our communication agencies (especially for media-buying), they will make reputation the most valuable asset of companies. So now is the time for advertisers to experiment with blockchain to make an impact on our own industry and beyond. Next-century media buying is already here. And advertisers need to remain one step ahead.

Fabien Aufrechter is head of Havas Blockchain

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