The company gets a lot of bad press, but one has to say, if Google wasn't banning malicious ads and blocking fraudulent publishers, who would? It also underscores the need for a discussion about the difference between cryptocurrencies and the blockchain technology that allows them to work. For me, the former is a bubble about to burst, and the latter is a fascinating technology that could bring transparency to digital marketing and advertising.
To deal with cryptocurrencies first, there are few people in any doubt that a crash in their value, certainly Bitcoin, is around the corner. Bloomberg quoted an expert this morning suggesting the crash is imminent. Apparently there is already a small correction taking place, and The Telegraph has a startling article comparing the classic boom and bust valuation line of a classic asset. Guess where Bitcoin is right now. If you can imagine the precipice of a cliff edge, you've got it.
However, the way cryptocurrencies work could be great for transparency. Now, I'm no expert, so forgive me any transgressions -- but it appears to be backed by a ledger which no one person holds in its entirety. It's distributed and acts like a biscuit crumb trail that is perfect for anyone who wants to know where their money has gone.
I've had pitches recently from start-ups that claim this allows them to track donations to charities and to ensure foreign aid money goes where it's needed and not a warlord's mansion.
I have also been receiving pitches from ad tech start-ups that claim to be able to use the same blockchain technology to digitise a budget and then follow the cookie crumb trail through the ad supply chain.
One of those arguably making the most noise is Truth. I talked with them a few months ago when they launched, and what they had to say made a lot of sense.
The issue it is tackling is who gets what cut from a digital marketing budget. How much of what is pumped in at the top end up in media placements that are seen by a target audience member? Or to pose the opposite question, how much is lost at each stage as strategy, planning, buying, verification and measurement processes are implemented and paid for?
For Truth it's a key differentiator, and I imagine there are and will be more agencies working out, or implementing, how blockchain can improve transparency. In fact, I got pitched just the other day by an ad-tech provider with a blockchain solution to showing where budget goes in programmatic campaigns. There is also another claiming to be the first blockchain marketing platform. I'm not sure either way if the claim stacks up, but I'm sure it won't be the last to make it.
It's still very early days, and the start-ups appear to have more promise and confidence than clients right now -- at least those they can publicly disclose.
So there are two lessons today. Google really is the policeman of digital marketing, and while cryptocurrencies ads are to play no part in its ecosystem -- thank goodness -- brands could find the technology behind the virtual money could do a lot to provide the greater transparency they are asking agencies to provide.
So you can keep the dodgy money -- but please leave us the tech.