AT&T Begins Testing Blockchain For Ads, Media Buys

AT&T's marketers are demanding increased transparency into its digital advertising supply chain and have begun to test blockchain technology that will "verify and validate" the company's multibillion-dollar ad investment. The goal is to identify who is charging what and when for advertisements, and to better understand the value of the ads being served.

"We talked about it internally for a while and involved the ANA in some of the conversations before deciding to move forward," said Mark Wright, vice president of media services and sponsorship at AT&T. "Standing still and trying to explain internally that we didn't have full transparency in this chain was not acceptable."

Wright's team isn't just the "guardians of the brands," but also the "stewards of the investment," he said, explaining the complications of assessing the value of the campaigns and rate of return in the programmatic ad space.

AT&T began working with blockchain tech platform Amino Payments and AdFin earlier this year. The goal to verify and validate transactions is not cut and dried. "Every marketer is in the same place -- am I getting my money's worth?" he said. "It's hard to make this assessment without understanding if the providers in the chain feel their service is of value, then we shouldn't have any problem having everyone putting a stamp on it."

Phase one began with tests centered on media buying and reporting on blockchain-based campaigns running through 2018.

The goal is to understand "what's going on inside the chain," Wright said. The lack of transparency "really hinders" AT&T campaign strategies when trying to understand the "percentage of the media dollars that make it to consumers."  

AT&T is about halfway through the advertising tool audit, which takes a digital fingerprint of every stop in the chain.

At the end of the assessment, AT&T will decide whether it's worth implementing a full-scale project.

The assessment, which concludes soon, based on verify and validate will help marketers determine the key performance indicators for a full implementation.  

And if there's not a "deep enough understanding, we may pull in another one -- but I think the takeaway for AT&T, which spends a significant amount of money on paid media and a significant amount of money in the programmatic space," having this unknown is unacceptable, Wright said. 

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