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Inevitable: Blockchain Adoption in the Ad Industry

By Matt Timothy

Recently, I had the opportunity to join a panel discussion on the topic of “Blockchain in Media and Advertising.” As a new member of the PDMI, we were excited to see interest in blockchain technology and immediately said yes to its fantastic Take 20 series. But what can really come out of a 20-minute conversation with a lawyer, an agency executive, and the platform perspective? As it turns out, a lot! Our 20-minute discussion was both engaging and illuminating. After taking part, I have some additional thoughts to share.

  • My first takeaway: the industry needs to have more of these open and frank discussions — a lot more. The current state of the ad market is unnerving, to say the least. The promise of marketing automation comes with some peril — a lack of transparency, an overreliance on black-box operating systems, unnecessarily complicated campaign executions, and opaque (at best) accountability frameworks. The scaffolding that the industry has built around programmatic is like a big Jenga tower. The more we play with it, the less stable it appears.

  • Second: Blockchain is more than crypto — and the world needs to know. Blockchain is a technology that can help stabilize our industry, but we need to decouple it from the roller coaster ride of coins and NFTs in the minds of advertisers. Blockchain has many uses, and we need to make this clear. Our discussion was a big step in that direction.

  • Third: Inevitability. Ron Hadler, vice president, data and innovation, at Red Door Interactive, said it best: the adoption of blockchain (or something equivalent that provides trust, transparency, and confidence) is inevitable in our industry. Scaffolding should not be confused with a permanent structure. Blockchain is part of the foundation of the next generation of effective and efficient brand storytelling. The amount of ad spend that gets wasted — tech fees from a myriad intermediaries, chronic fraud, or even simply incompetent execution — is chilling. The widespread complicity of major ad industry stakeholders who profit directly from the complexity of the black-box world of programmatic should be the sign that urgent change is necessary. The wake-up call is ringing loudly.

  • Fourth: Make these changes before they are made for you. Christopher Boone, associate at Venable LLP, noted that governments and regulatory bodies are starting to understand the promise and potential of blockchain in areas beyond the crypto marketplace. If blockchain delivers transparency, trust, and accountability, why not take control of our own destiny by improving the operating landscape ourselves? Our discussion made it clear that we need to make a solid step in that direction.

A big thank you to our moderator, Chris Foster of Modern Postcard, for guiding us all through the conversation. Blockboard was proud to be a part of this vital discussion and is equally proud to be one of the PDMI’s newest members.

Take 20 is a bi-monthly 20-minute webinar that focuses on topical industry conversations hosted by PDMI, the premier trade organization for performance marketers.

Matt Timothy is executive vice president of sales and marketing for Blockboard. He can be reached via email at


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