Market research giant YouGov is readying a blockchain solution that will allow EU consumers to choose which data they share with brands; a move that will not only help it preserve its nascent digital ad network post-GDPR, but one it’s pitching as a “great boon” for publishers too.
With the deadline looming for the strict new EU legislation – which covers everything from consent to data portability and carries with it multimillion non-compliance fines – YouGov’s chief executive Stephan Shakespeare explained to The Drum the company didn’t want its GDPR preparation to be a “box ticking exercise”.
Instead, he said YouGov has spotted an opportunity to embrace cracking the code around finding more transparent and accountable ways to access consumer data.
He added: "You can view GDPR as a challenge or limitation that you somehow have to comply with, or you can view it as a more ethical way of dealing with audiences."
The tech to support this vision is being baked into YouGov Direct, the insight firm’s recently-launched ad platform.
As well as offering up benefits to the industry, the solution is vital for YouGov given that 49% of its group revenue now comes from its global data products and services – which will only continue to grow if it's GDPR ready.
Of YouGov’s some 6 million panelists around the world, who are already financially rewarded to share their preferences and media habits for market research purposes, those residing in the EU will be now be incentivised to share further data with third parties while remaining anonymous.
YouGov will offer these consumers “additional rewards” in the form of digital tokens, which can then be exchanged for money. Consumers can opt in to share as much as they want, and can permanently delete or hold back information at any stage.
A blockchain ledger will then be used to verify the data exchange between these consumers and advertisers. The information in the blockchain will be granular but anonymised, which the research firm has claimed will give advertisers and publishers the ability to target audiences more effectively post-GDPR.
A great 'boon' for publishers
Ahead of GDPR, much onus has been put on publishers by platforms like Google and Facebook when it comes to who has responsibility for gaining consent.
Some media owners also think that IAB Europe’s Transparency and Consent Framework asks them to assume the majority of the legal risk – especially when it comes to how vendors use data.
However, Shakespeare said the publishers YouGov has spoken with view YouGov Direct as a solution not only to GDPR compliance issues but a tool that could also improve audiences' advertising experiences.
"If you look at the way digital advertising works at the moment it isn't actually very good, most people aren't seeing things they're interested in seeing their seeing things that are fairly often trying to sucker them into something," he said.
"The [current way of] targeting may improve the advertisers' return by a little bit but it makes for a worse experience for the audience, especially on platforms where they've put a huge effort into making a great product.
"[Publishers] have no control over this valuable real estate where you often get junk advertising, so we think this is in the long run a great boon to publishers, as well as audiences and advertisers to create a better and more ethical form of advertising."
YouGov has also suggested the transparency of the system could help tackle the marketing industry’s $16bn ad fraud issue by providing the assurance that ads are reaching human eyeballs rather than bots.
The blockchain solution is poised to launch in early 2019.