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The Data & Marketing Association (DMA), a traditional trade organization for data-driven marketing, has announced plans to launch a blockchain-based solution aimed at fighting online advertising fraud.

Called adChain, the product is collaboration with California startup MetaX that will find the two entities creating a smart contract on the public ethereum blockchain designed to prevent bots from fraudulently generating clicks at the cost of advertisers. Under the system, domains will hold adTokens on the registry as a means of accreditation, with the goal of proving that ads reach a real human audience.

"DMA's advertiser members need to know that they are purchasing ads from legitimate publishers, and DMA's publisher members need to deliver accurate metrics along with a value in their publishing platform," said Tom Benton, CEO of DMA.

For advertisers, the solution will allow for the purchase of ad-space on sites that are provably fraud-free. For publishers, the product would helps maintain identity and veracity in the advertising supply chain.

According to Ken Brook, CEO of MetaX, the adChain protocol allows all parties involved to come to a consensus on what is fraudulent in digital advertising by creating a whitelist of trustworthy operators.

Brook said:

"We believe many of the problems can be addressed with trusted identity and verification. Other parts of the adChain protocol can prevent domain spoofing, which is still a major industry problem."

Ad money spent on fraudulent traffic is tipped to reach $16.4bn in 2017, more than double that of 2016, and the DMA claims its solution, outlined in a new white paper, will bring more transparency to digital advertising’s processes.

With the platform, however, domains can apply to be added to the registry, and if no other parties challenge their validity, they can begin trading with advertisers.

Community voting

Notably, the use of the public ethereum blockchain is key for the product, despite the fact it will have an intended business audience.

According to Brook, one of the more important components of the network will be its open reporting system, which will seek to help determine the conduct of those using the system with a token-based rewards mechanism to incentivize participation.

Brook added:

"We can incentivize virtuous behavior by tokenizing the adChain protocol and rewarding those who report or prevent fraud by leveraging our token voting mechanism."

In the case of a questionable domain, an adToken holder can deposit tokens equal to that of the new applicant. This will open a voting process where other holders can vote on the legitimacy of the new domain and if it should be allowed in. Rejected applicants can reapply again.

The news that adChain will pursue a token-based model comes amid a surge in interest for so-called initial coin offerings, a form of blockchain token distribution. Just last week, web browser Brave raised $35m in a record fast token sale in its hope to improve how users see and interact with digital advertising.

Deployment roadmap

According to those involved, the solution is now in the midst of building its network.

MetaX is currently integrating adChain with industry partners, such as demand-side systems (DSPs) and publishers, for a private beta that will run for the rest of the year. Oxford Bio Chron, a bot detection service, is the first to integrate the solution.

DMA and MetaX have also established the adChain Association (ACA), a non-profit governing body that will oversee the protocol. MetaX is providing DMA with the technical know-how while DMA will use its reach and influence to encourage adChain usage. New York blockchain startup ConsenSys is also involved in the project and will be building advertising services around the adChain protocol.

The public launch of the tokens – 1 billion in total – will take place later this month with an experimental deployment in August. One hundred million tokens have already been sold in a pre-sale to fund development and onboard a number of industry players.

The remaining 900m tokens will be broken down as such: 200m reserved for MetaX, 200m reserved for ConsenSys, and 500m for a public token sale capped at $10m.

Those involved are targeting early 2019 for a public launch.

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