Unilever turns to IBM blockchain to improve ad transparency

The digital advertising space has experienced a bumpy year as marketers, brands and agencies struggle to adapt to the increasingly complex world of data-driven advertising and the growing technology stacks needed to navigate it effectively.

The current landscape of ad tech, dominated by programmatic solutions and sometimes opaque business practices, has proven itself prone to misfires, mistakes and a lot of outright ad fraud – not to mention growing brand safety concerns.

At the IAB’s annual Leadership Summit this month, Unilever’s chief marketing officer, Keith Weed, representing the second largest advertiser in the world, threatened to pull advertising from publishers like Google and Facebook unless those publishers can deliver more guarantees around brand safety and transparency. Unilever, which owns brands such as Dove, Axe, Lipton and PG Tips, spent about $2.45bn in digital advertising in 2017.

In order to combat ad fraud and advertising discrepancies which are currently endemic to programmatic solutions, Unilever has partnered with IBM to devise an advertising blockchain program which tracks how media is purchased and delivered. The solution will be able to find discrepancies in things like inventory purchases and campaign performance daily, giving marketers the ability to save money by fixing these problems quickly. It can also use blockchain to track insertion orders and payments. The two companies have been testing the solution for the past seven months, and plan to roll it out in phases.

At the IAB Leadership Summit, Weed said that, moving forward, Unilever will not work with advertising partners who cannot meet basic requirements around brand safety and transparency.