The Marketing Group’s blockchain-backed agency Truth promises to be antidote to industry’s media woes

The Marketing Group launches media agency built on blockchain

The Marketing Group (TMG) has launched a media agency, built on blockchain technology, that promises advertisers 100% transparency as they grapple with what Procter & Gamble (P&G) brand chief Marc Pritchard now infamously described as a “murky at best, and fraudulent at worst” media supply chain.

Called Truth, the new entity will be run by Mary Keane-Dawson, who joined TMG earlier this year, and Adam Hopkinson who will join from AnyClip as chief operating officer from 1 December.

It has been built with Ethereum at its core. Often thought of simply as a cryptocurrency, like bitcoin, the so-called 'smart contracts’ that underpin how a payment is sent securely from one person to another, across fragmented networks, is the same programme that will track how a media buy makes its way from an advertiser to a media owner.

Speaking to The Drum, Keane-Dawson said that, in simpler terms, it “gives clients the comfort that their data is being protected and that their money is being spent in the way that it’s supposed to be spent.”

“Right now, once you hand the money over to agencies, as a client you don’t know what happens. You might get a reconciliation statement but there’s no way to verify. With blockchain technology you can. Every transaction is recorded by the ledger which verifies individually that transaction against the rules you set up,” she said.

For example, if an advertisers implements a rule stating that a supply-side platform (SSP) takes 20%, and then the ledger records that it has taken 13% and paid the remaining 7% back to the agency, then this would not be counted as a valid transaction.

"It would then be immediately stopped and investigated. I’m simplifying it, but that’s essentially it,” she added.

TMG has claimed to be the first to use blockchain technology for media buying at any sort of scale as Truth launches in London, San Francisco, Singapore, Auckland and Sydney.

Some agencies, like WPP’s GroupM, are just beginning to experiment but TMG hopes that being first out the blocks will better enable it take-on the might of the 'big six' holding companies.

“[Truth] doesn’t have the legacy that [the other holding groups] have. I really believe this makes us different. We want to be part of leading this change. We’re saying enough is enough, and getting on with building the right solution for our clients and customers,” Keane-Dawson added.

Marketers have been receptive, though she declined to name any of Truth’s launch clients. Spurring their interest are the issues that continue to dog the online ad sector, including ad fraud and brand safety.

P&G’s Pritchard called out the industry for failing to bring transparency to the “murky at best, fraudulent at worst” media supply chain during his landmark keynote address at the IAB Leadership Summit in January this year.

His comments, plus his announcement that it intends to review all of its media contracts, came just weeks before an exposé by The Times which explored how advertisers were inadvertently funding suspect content.

This prompted agency groups such as Havas to seek to assuage client concerns over such instances with the launch of its own ‘Client Trading Solution.’ Although this does not a way to which, though not a way to trade media does offer oversight of all programmatic trading going through its systems. TMG claims its offering goes further than any solution that the network agencies can offer at present.

As well as limiting the upwards of 80% of erosion to media budgets that advertisers can see across the media supply chain, TMG said those same advertisers will no longer get the same “poor quality placement because of the reselling that goes on out the back door.”

Additionally, media owners can also expect to be paid immediately for ad that runs on their platform.

Though still a proposition in its infancy, it’s this kind of offering that TMG hopes will place it in higher esteem within the industry following a year of turbulence which saw a complete overhaul of its board amid suggestions its 'agglomeration model' was nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

“Of all the problems we’ve had over the past year what we don’t have are legacy issues of opaque and dodgy media buying practices," said chief executive Adam Graham.

"We can start something fresh. We can provide more value to clients, publishers and consumers through disintermediating the programmatic media chain and providing more transparency through blockchain and that demonstrates to everyone where the money is going and tracks the metrics you need. There’s nowhere to hide."

Jennifer Faull

Jen Faull is Brands Editor at The Drum. Based in London, she has interviewed major business figures including top marketers from Mondelez, Unilever, Tesco, and Lidl.

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