The advertising industry has undergone a great deal of change over the past year. The impact of the pandemic aside, the omnipresence of big data and social media have raised new questions on privacy and surveillance.
California’s Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) was officially enacted in January, marking the most stringent privacy framework seen in the United States to date. With Google’s phase-out of third-party cookies, both consumer and regulatory agendas are undergoing a shift the industry will need to respond to. Innovations in identity management, revisions to data collection practices, and privacy compliance have become pressing topics.
“As economies across the continent gradually begin to see patterns of recovery, the coronavirus—for better or for worse—has given the industry the much-needed time to press pause and reflect on where we are today,” Gowthaman Ragothaman, CEO of Singapore-based adtech startup Aqilliz, told KrASIA in a recent interview.
His company Aqilliz is trying to address the current problems with blockchain technology—a database that exists across several locations eliminating the need for a central, all-powerful authority. Transactions are encrypted, validated, and confirmed by all participants.
To beef up its technological capabilities, the company partnered earlier this year with cybersecurity firm WhiteOps, a “global leader in bot mitigation,” which will help Aqilliz to prevent fraud in the ad bidding process. It also joined forces with BritePool, which offers privacy-compliant, cookie-less identity verification.
“While efficient, the existing programmatic advertising model has upheld systemic challenges for far too long,” said Ragothaman. “Driven by our mission to restore an equal value exchange across brands, platforms, and consumers, we’ve demonstrated the potential of blockchain in enabling a smarter model of automation and transparency.”
The rise of programmatic advertising
Estimated to be worth USD 147 billion globally by 2021, programmatic advertising—the automated buying and selling of advertising space in real time—is only as good as the data it runs on. A lack of standardization often leads to inefficiencies. Advertising growth in APAC continues to be driven by digital formats with programmatic advertising taking the center stage. Only this year, it accounted for 36% of APAC’s overall market for digital and video ads.
Aqilliz only launched in September last year. Together with the adtech firm Moving Walls, it now manages a blockchain-based “Digital Out-of-Home” (DOOH) advertising pilot for the mobile food delivery service foodpanda and a loyalty program for the Singaporean telco MyRepublic.
“At a fundamental level, we believe that the programmatic advertising industry is over-indexed towards multiple specializations,” said Ragothaman. “There are close to 40 such point solutions across identity management, CRM, loyalty, e-commerce, and social media, among others, and nearly 8,000 companies across the world today. While specialization is good for the business, we believe, it is high time that these specializations are unified for better understanding and attribution of the marketing investments.”
Safe and secure
Aqilliz created Atom, which claims to be capable of processing data from any source in a safe and secure manner. It enables web apps that instruct the browser to display a reference to something on-screen but disallows the actual web app and other components from accessing it.
Atom can further perform any type of querying across ingested data sets without replicating any storage, which means that it enables a decentralized model of data aggregation that ensures that personal data always remains in local storage—never leaving the user’s device.
The backbone for Atom is the public blockchain Zilliqa and its “smart contract” functionality. Blockchain is still a young technology that is looking for larger-scale use cases. The market is expected to reach over USD 23.3 billion by 2023. Analysts expect blockchain to dominate martech and adtech as it offers a secure environment for advertisers and publishers allowing them to connect to the right audience and make safe transactions.
Aqilliz has been involved in “Project Ubin,” an initiative that saw the Monetary Authority of Singapore, state fund Temasek, and private entities testing how blockchain technology could be used for clearing and settlement of payments and securities. “We believe it has the potential of unlocking tremendous value for the digital marketing ecosystem,” said Ragothaman. “The Ubin Project helps Atom close the last mile—payments. Maintaining an immutable record of transactions helps in connecting the payment gateway with settlements.”