TAGThe Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) has completed a 12 month cross-industry pilot programme to evaluate the feasibility and potential benefits of Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) to increase trust and transparency in digital advertising. Launched by JICWEBS last year (prior to its merger with TAG) the pilot included participants from major brands and advertising agencies, publishers and advertising tech providers.

For me the focus of this project is ultimately about digital advertising payments and reconciliation of the supply chain. While the internet made information accessible to everyone, we hope blockchain as a technology – and specifically DLT, as used in this pilot, will start to create accountability for the transactional aspects of the internet” said Nigel Vaz, IPA President and CEO Publicis Sapient.

While driving efficiencies, it will also enable greater transparency in line with real, demanding regulatory requirements in a way that will allow us to regain the trust we’ve lost due to the evolving proliferation in this area.

TAG

The Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) is a global certification program. It seeks to:

  • prevent (or at least constrain) criminal activity
  • increase trust in the digital advertising industry.

Created by leading US industry trade organizations, TAG’s mission with regard to digital advertising is to:

  • eliminate fraudulent traffic
  • combat malware
  • prevent Internet piracy
  • promote transparency.

TAG advances those initiatives by bringing companies across the digital advertising supply chain together to set the highest standards. TAG is the first and only registered Information Sharing and Analysis Organization (ISAO) for the digital advertising industry.

Participants, spanning nearly every segment of the ad supply chain, in the TAG pilot included:

  • advertisers Nestle, Telefonica/O2, McDonald’s, Virgin Media and Johnson & Johnson
  • agencies GroupM, Havas, IPG, Mindshare, OMD and Zenith
  • more than 15 prominent ad tech providers/publishers (unnamed).

“To address difficult cross-industry challenges, TAG helps create a collaborative environment for companies to share new ideas, exchange information, and set common standards,” said Mike Zaneis, CEO of TAG. “While DLT is still in its early stages, we believe this pilot not only highlights the potential for this type of technology but also the importance of working with stakeholders across industry to evaluate and find consensus on common standards.

The TAG DLT pilot

TAG partnered with London-based tech business FIDUCIA for the pilot. The pilot analysed 112 million impressions worth £1.4M across 127 campaigns. It ran from July 2019 to July 2020 and included 20 data feeds spanning:

  • demand-side platforms
  • supply-side platforms
  • content verification tools
  • publishers.

The TAG pilot demonstrated:

  • supply chain transparency
  • supply chain optimisation
  • operational efficiencies.

The pilot validated the use of a DLT platform as a unified data and reporting layer for the industry (despite log level data availability and inconsistency issues). The attraction of DLT is that it:

  • harmonises impression log level data to a common format
  • automates data access management
  • ensures data immutability, security and privacy (data recorded in the ledger is only accessed on a need-to know basis via encryption keys under the control of the data provider
  • streamlines the access to supply chain reconciled log level data via a single API.

TAG pilot optimsation

Regarding optimisation, the pilot enabled its participants to use ‘Shared Truth’ to validate the execution of campaigns against a set of metrics reconciled among multiple vendors, including:

  • discrepancies
  • measurability
  • viewability
  • brand safety
  • fraud prevention metrics.

For DLT reconciled impressions, 34% were categorised as non-qualified and/or non-viewable. In effect, the focus was:

  • more on the validation and reconciliation of impressions against qualitative and quantitative metrics
  • less on the financial values.

DLT also tested how smart contracts can automate business processes between ad buyers and sellers. This revealed significant operational efficiencies. Research conducted with agencies indicated that programmatic teams spend up to 60% of their time downloading, formatting and reconciling data, compared with just 20% analysing it. Additionally, 59% of respondents thought campaign reporting and reconciliation would benefit most from automation.

Building a more transparent ecosystem requires both innovation and collaboration, and this pilot has demonstrated our industry’s commitment to working together to quickly and thoroughly evaluate new technologies,” said Jules Kendrick, Managing Director UK & Europe for TAG. “Our pilot showed promising opportunities for a DLT platform, including the potential to achieve a ‘Shared Truth’ where the same data is recognized as valid and accurate across the supply chain. We look forward to expanding our consultative efforts to help ensure that every participant in the supply chain can be sure that ‘what you see is what I see.'”

Enterprise Times: what does this mean

Providing end to end supply chain transparency should be a win-win for all legitimate parties (advertisers, agencies, publishers, etc.) throughout the digital advertising supply chain. It explains why a cross industry approach can uncover a constructive way forward in a part of the ad industry that many regard as often suspect. If The TAG pilot progresses it should enable advertisers to maximise their ad spend while reducing fraud.

To evaluate the opportunities and challenges facing a DLT industry consortium network, TAG says it plans to launch an industry consultation. This will:

  • share detailed information about the initiative
  • give stakeholders across the industry the opportunity to provide input to determine how best to move forward.

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