How Blockchain can destroy advertising and save commerce

Advertising. It is a necessary part of any business. And as an industry, it is big business. The Online Advertising Market was valued at USD 304.0 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach USD 982.82 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of 21.6 per cent over the forecast period 2020 – 2025. (Source). It’s also outdated, broken, usurious and invasive and much of it deserves to perish.

The idea is simple. Get your brand, product or service in front of a potential customer and convince them to buy. 

Over time, banner ads have been rendered ineffective. Today’s consumers expect to be informed and entertained – not just told what to buy. The rise of content marketing and influencer marketing are part of these trends. 

 In 1998 Google introduced a fundamental shift in advertising by connecting ads to search. If someone was searching for “best washing machine”, we might be able to infer that they intended to buy a new washing machine – and thus showing them an ad for washing machines might be appropriate. (Currently 70 per cent-80 per cent of users ignore sponsored search results. source)

A parallel component and topic of interest and importance is privacy. There are plenty of news stories, documentaries – and articles from people like me – talking about how the idea of consumers protecting their data has become mainstream. 

When we apply for loans or financing, we must provide all manner of personal information. We are forced to engage in this process over and over again. To a lesser extent, every time we look for a new car or even a new sofa, we have to provide the same information repeatedly to everyone and anyone. 

Today’s advertising and media business models are broken. Will Blockchain provide the basis to disrupt them?

As a direct result, many people have a lot of information about us. We’re ‘supposed’ to just trust that they will not only respect regulations and our privacy, that they will also protect our data from business partners, prying government eyes and illicit cyber terrorists. 

Then add media companies and digital service providers to this already massive, unwiedly equation. Most of these companies have advertising-based business models which rely on using data to decide who will see which ads. (Ads which today are largely ignored or even wholly blocked via ad-blockers, which many consider essential addons to their browsing experience).

So what’s the answer?

Turn the entire advertising and commerce model on its head. 

Now when I decide that I want a mortgage or a new refrigerator or even a new house, I will publicise that I am in the market and let merchants come to me. 

That’s right. I won’t bother searching the Internet anymore; I’ll publish that I’m in the market for a product or service and let the merchants do the hard work for a change.

With this system, all of the necessary information is made available to the merchant via a single online source. I can decide which of the bidders gets access to which details. I have full control over not only who sees what information but also control how they can use that data. I can share only part of my postcode, but not my full address. I can share that I am over 21 without telling the merchant my birthdate. I can confirm that my credit score is over a specific figure, without sharing my full credit history. 

With this system, I no longer spend hours filling out forms and repeatedly sending scanned copies of my passport and my utility bill through email for all and sundry to see (and abuse). I make the information available once, and then I can decide who can have that information. I no longer have to do the work. Now the merchant is the one who has to do all of the heavy lifting.

To prevent being overwhelmed with irrelevant offers, I can even put filters that limit who can send me proposals. I can specify limits based on geography, how many years they have been in business – even a minimum independent “trust” rating. 

From a merchants perspective, this is great : All they need to do is be able to make a verified claim that they meet all of my criteria and they’re guaranteed that I will at least consider their offer. Think about it: No mass firing of offers into the dark, hoping to catch a few customers while spending to get the attention of thousands in this digital age of zero attention space. Nevermind the benefits in reduced infosec overhead, wasted advertising spend, ad bidding wars and much, much more.

This model turns the traditional model of advertising on its head and takes the Google model of “intention” to the next level. The solution allows for complete control over the flow of information and has privacy designed in from the ground up.

So how could this be achieved?

With Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI), I have full control over all of my data – and I can get merchants to come to me.

A marketplace for buyers and bidders to meet is possible utilising one of the most promising applications in blockchain today – globally – Self Sovereign Identity or SSI. 

My identity is a collection of claims that are verified by a trusted third party. I claim that I’m over 21, and my birth certificate – confirmed by the state – proves it. I claim that I have a computer science degree from the University of Missouri, Rolla and my diploma and transcripts – verified by the university – prove it. I claim that I live in South London and my utility bill – confirmed by the utility company – proves that. 

A self-sovereign identity platform makes all of those claims available to me so that I can share them with anyone I chose. The other party can verify they are correct. And I can do all of that without ever sending anyone a copy of my birth certificate, bank statements, diploma, transcripts or utility bills. My identity, as a collection of these claims, is sovereign, controlled and managed only by me. 

And guess what: The fact that I am now in the market for a new racing bike is also a claim that I can make, and that I can choose how and where I share that. Any merchant can request to make a bid, and they can confirm if I am over 170cm tall (without knowing my actual height) and my intended uses for the bike. They can learn all of these things without ever knowing my name. It’s only at the end of this process will my chosen merchant know my full name and shipping information (instead of today’s environment when you often have to register all of these details on a website just to browse, let alone purchase an item)

With the SSI platform, I can even complete the payment transaction without sending them any financial details like a credit card number, billing address or the funny three-digit number on the back of my card. 

Of course, disrupting (or outright killing) advertising will have a disruptive effect on media companies and all their so called “free” services. Their revenue will dry up, and many will die. (That’s a good thing). High-value content will survive, and people will pay for it. Low-value click-bait and privacy disaster services will fade into oblivion. And that’s also a good thing.

Returning full control of all my data and personal information back to me? Priceless

Get in touch with us / Twitter @troy_norcross

Troy Norcross, Co-Founder Blockchain Rookies

Twitter: @troy_norcross