Xinshu Dong, CEO of Singaporean-based blockchain network Zilliqa. Photo: Asia Times

Xinshu Dong, CEO of Singaporean-based blockchain network Zilliqa, says a newly-launched technology platform will directly tackle widespread issues of fraud, transparency and inefficiency in digital advertising.

Project Proton will specifically tackle so called programmatic advertising that uses software to automate the process of buying and selling digital advertising instead of using humans negotiating the price of ads and then manually inserting or uploading them.

The programmatic advertising sector, dominated by Facebook and Google, is said to account for more than 80% of all global digital ad spending, a sector that in totality some estimates say is now worth more than US$270 billion globally. 

Programmatic advertising has been plagued by accusations that it has become overrun by fake traffic scams and criminally linked, computer-controlled ‘bad bots” but, according to Dong, Project Proton can change things. 

“Blockchain is a disruptive technology,” Dong told Asia Times, “that drives more transparency, decentralization, and efficiency … and fraud is a critical issue that impacts the entire digital advertising space.”

In 2018 alone, says Dong, “fraudulent ads cost both publishers and advertisers $15 billion. The introduction of blockchain into programmatic advertising aims to curtail additional spending incurred by ad fraud as well as [other] inefficient processes.”

It will do this, claims Dong, with a network based on blockchain-enabled smart contracts. This means “advertisers will only need to pay for impressions that have been validated as viewable, brand-safe, and free from ad fraud. Agencies can also settle the transactions among themselves based on a decentralized and transparent ledger.”

 Project Proton has been built and launched by a seemingly powerful enough partnership alliance” made up of established global advertising and technology players. This includes media buying agency Mindshare, part of the sprawling global ad giant WPP’s network of companies. “Project Proton,” says Dong “is offering a different type of advertising altogether.”

Dong also says Zilliqa is the first public blockchain platform in the world to successfully utilize a concept he calls “sharding.”

Best explained as the concept of “divide and conquer,” sharding essentially involves dividing the participating nodes in a blockchain network into smaller groups that are able to process groups of transactions in parallel. Sharding, says Dong, addresses the issue of speed and scalability, critical areas of concern in the blockchain industry.

Other related areas that Dong thinks has both potential for Zilliqa and application in global advertising are the tokenization of assets – the method of splitting tangible assets, in anything from property to art, to allow them to be divided into small units to allow for more market participants – and also so-called  stablecoins – digital tokens pegged to existing currencies – particularly in areas where a business needs to have a currency that is not subject to huge fluctuations.

Dong thinks both sharding and tokenization could also be useful for digital advertising, but the industry still has some way to go before true widespread adoption is seen.

“People still don’t really understand blockchain and … tokens” said Dong. “Ultimately, it’s the job of blockchain organizations to make some of their interfaces friendlier and to also educate the public on these matters. But people have no problem using loyalty points, so why shouldn’t they use tokens?”

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