Blockchain has been touted as the next Internet, a technology that will revolutionize the way we live. Kim Parlee talks with Brian Wong, founder of kiip and author of The Cheat Code, as his company launches the first ever blockchain mobile ad campaign with AB InBev, the world’s biggest beer company.
And when Brian made a stop in Toronto recently, he stopped by the studio to chat about his latest venture, which uses blockchain technology in advertising. We decided to listen and learn.
Blockchain, a lot of times folks misinterpret it as related to cryptocurrencies, and Bitcoin, and Ethereum. But cryptocurrencies aren't the only thing running on blockchain. Blockchain as a technology is really summarized as sort of ledger technology, decentralized ledger technology. Essentially, you can use it as a ledger. You write data onto it.
And the whole point is that it's immutable. You can't change it after the fact, which has a lot of implications. So anytime you have unique data or unique thing of something, which, obviously, for cryptocurrencies was of the coin, or of the Ethereum, or of the Bitcoin, you would want to write it onto that ledger.
Now in advertising, a lot of issues are currently at play. Right? There's a lot of lack of transparency. A lot of brands don't know where their dollar is going when they're spending it. And there's a lot of digital waste in terms of things that aren't viewable, impressions that aren't viewable. Ads that people don't even see that they're being charged for. So naturally, if we could take where an ad is delivered and to write that data onto the blockchain in a way that our clients can actually audit in a neutral environment, it makes them feel more secure and trusting of where exactly their dollar's being spent.
So that any type of marketplace where it's very opaque, where there's lack of trust, there's a lot of middlemen that are there because people don't trust each other-- which by the way, sounds a lot like a lot of different industries. Advertising is a very big example of that. And so we felt that using that as a use case, just to show where their dollar is going, was going to be good enough as a pilot. And we did that with our client.
It's interesting. Because if I think about-- being a little older than you-- but I think about advertising in broadcast, which was completely not very trackable. I mean, it was something you sent out to the world. And there was proxies made for who's watching what. Then you get into digital, which was that much more trackable. But what I'm hearing from you is that's still not very trackable. This just gives almost precision, from the sounds of it, in terms of what's going on. Am I hearing that right?
Exactly. And I would say that the irony of digital, having given all this promise of trackability and visibility, is that it actually became even less so. Because there was all of these different ways you could show an impression and fire off pixels. And there wasn't a lot of truth or trust in that truth, if that makes any sense.
So having that written there, for them, is trust in that the technology is neutral. I don't control the ledger. The fact that it's on Ethereum-- this is where we're writing the data-- and our client is public-- it's AB InBev, a very, very large advertiser-- the fact that that's all on a neutral environment that I don't control is also something they have solace in, as well.
So either one of you, or any party at any point could go in and see actually what's going on and how it's performing, those types of things too.
So this is a mobile ad campaign you're doing with blockchain. Tell me a bit about just how it works. Because I know you've got your own IP, if you will, that's involved in this.
So we have a network of 11,000 apps. We have our technology in those apps. We serve ads into those apps in moments. That's our whole shtick, is moments based targeting. Effectively, serving ads at the right time.
But what we figured would be easy to do because our technologies and all those apps is we have 100% visibility into exactly which one of these apps these ads ran in, and who engaged with those ads. Did they watch the video? Do they click on the ad?
So all of that data is just event-level data. And that data, right now, most advertisers see through a dashboard that their vendor or their publisher is providing them. But instead of that, we're saying, hey, we're going to write the raw data to the blockchain, to the ledger. So you can see it and audit anytime you want. So their data science team is actually downloading that data in real time, and analyzing it themselves.
That puts-- does that put all the power-- does it shift the power out of the person who is helping create these ads to the people who are buying them? I mean--
Yeah, ultimately that's what it is.
Yeah. So how does that transform things? Because that seems momentous.
It is. It transforms it a lot because the advertiser has always been trying to reclaim power. Right? And it's funny. Even though they try to do that by, for example, programmatic as a technology, which has become the dominant way of buying advertising, still, Facebook and Google-- and I will mention them-- have been the large arbiters of that ability to buy.
So the trust factor is still very lacking obviously, given all the different controversies that some of those companies have gone through the last couple years. And having the ability now for an independent technology that neither Facebook or Google can control to actually have this transparency is momentous for the advertiser, and their ability to see where their dollar is going.
Let me ask you, and I know you're a big thinker, so this campaign that you're doing is fascinating in terms of what your company's doing and enabling. But when you kind of look 10 years out, what does this mean for the industry? I mean, I know you made a comment. I was reading something you wrote about that if you were rebuilding your company today, you would have rebuilt it on blockchain. So how does this change everything?
- It changes in that-- I always like to say blockchain is like a foundational technology. It's like cloud. Right? Now when I share with you a document, I don't announce hey, I'm giving you a document on cloud now. It's just natural. It's just part of what we're doing in document sharing.
Same thing with blockchain. I think inevitably every ad will be served with a blockchain technology component as part of it, in the next three to five years. That's my prediction.
What do you think then-- I mean, obviously, it has huge implications, blockchain, for many industries. But for your company, where do you see things in five years?
Yeah, it's a very big question. I think the simplified way is we plan to actually introduce a mechanism of spending on advertising using a token. Now, a lot of token-related projects have been talked about.
And there's been mostly negative things to say, primarily because of the markets and things like that. We actually don't plan to trade our token, at least in the beginning stages. We want it to be a way for advertisers to buy advertising. It's called Koin, K-O-I-N. But the biggest differentiator-- and this is back to what Kiip was originally all about-- if you remember, is that we actually plan to have the end user be rewarded with a piece of the ad spend.
So think of that $100,000 that Starbucks or Coke might be spending to reach their consumer. Imagine a piece of that ends up going to them, for them to be able to buy the very product that was being advertised to them in the first place. It just makes so much sense.
So we're trying to create that ecosystem using a token that we manage, obviously. And because we have this 11,000-app ecosystem, we can deploy it effectively in front of tens of millions of people very, very quickly.
Now, the consumer is not going to be like, I'm going to own a bunch of Koin now. It's in my wallet. No, no, you're just going to see it in the form of Starbucks stars you can use that people are familiar with. Right?
Or it could be a coupon. A reward system from the company.
It's already existing with the company. But the company feels secure putting stars into an ad. Because now it's managed with a technology that they trust. And so ultimately, the trust component of blockchain is why it's such a game-changer. And you see even companies like Starbucks making announcements about this stuff very publicly. Because they know that by being on the cutting edge of that, they have their whole ecosystem of vendors and customers feeling that they're using their data more securely. And they're reaching them in a more secure fashion.
That was Brian Wong, founder and CEO of Kiip, joining me here in studio. And again, always great to get his take on what's going on. Because you're going to hear about it in the markets in the not-so-near future.