The Future of Blockchain and Digital Media

Updated: Jan 13, 2020

At some point, your CEO is going to come to you, the CMO, and ask with a sense of confusion: “Are we really doing everything we can with blockchain?”

And, at this point in the development of digital ad products, your response as CMO should be a perfectly-acceptable: “Yes, we are.”

That’s because blockchain is essentially a technology solution seeking a problem at this point in its development. Its reputation as a technology that can bring trust to a digital media ecosystem, that has a long list of trust issues, may be earned one day. However, at the moment, applications in the digital media portion of the healthcare marketing space are vaporware.

Digital media geeks like me fantasize about automated media buying platforms that clear media purchases and release payment via smart contracts. That is, if purchased media packages met certain criteria for ad viewability, audience qualification or engagement, blockchain tech would automatically release payment to ad sellers. That could bring unprecedented efficiency to digital media buying.

However, there’s one small problem: blockchain tech can’t keep up with digital media’s pace of transactions, if Real-Time Bidding is to be considered on an impression-by-impression basis. Put another way, our ad buys across premium health sites might generate thousands of transactions per second, but blockchain tech is limited to only a dozen or so per second. If applied as a trust engine for programmatic ad buys, currently, it just can’t keep up.

That’s not to say the technology is useless to the sector, but it does mean that we probably have some time before blockchain has a major impact on digital media buying. Its benefits will likely be felt sooner in the areas of patient medical records and such. If you oversee digital advertising, though, the tech is in its infancy when it comes to solving real problems in the digital ad supply chain. For now, put your mind at ease – you’ll see it in other parts of the healthcare sector before you see it in action in digital advertising.

Tom Hespos is the founder of Underscore, a media company serving healthcare companies and healthy brands. He has been in the digital ad space since the first ad was sold on the Internet. At Underscore, Tom is responsible for the systems and processes that enable Underscore’s hypertargeted ad buys against patient, HCP and managed markets/payer audiences.


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