Decentralisation in marketing: Improving the economic value of digital marketing systems | WARC

Many advertisers are unaware that half of their spends are wasted, so user identification is necessary for advertising effectiveness as it helps to correct measurement and attribution, while standardisation to unify multiple digital marketing platforms will make audience discovery possible.


It’s a slightly provocative topic but it’s worth delving into, particularly because it has the potential to save trillions of dollars in adspend wastage. Gowthaman Ragothaman, Founding CEO of Aqilliz, addressed the seemingly unsolvable problem that the advertising and digital marketing industries continue to grapple with – not knowing how or where revenues continue to bleed out and how to stem the flow.

He was speaking at a talk on ‘Decentralisation in Marketing’ on the first day at ZeeMELT 2022, a conference that brings the best disruptive marketing practices from the advertising, media, publishing and digital industries.

Ragothaman spoke at length about the ‘disconnected systems of engagement’ that account for at least 50% of advertising money loss annually for most brands.

“Decentralisation of all data and knowledge sources throughout the supply chain is key to mitigating the problem,” he advised. “The collapse or intense disruption of major social media platforms indicates customers’ preference for greater privacy of their data, apart from an increased desire to know how and where their data is shared and accessed.”

He said it “naturally follows that a ‘shared ledger’ of data is a must at a time when all stakeholders, from marketers to consumers, require a level playing field that functions with transparency”. 

This means every entity in that supply chain is aware of how and where data is sourced from, how it is shared and used, etc.

Some interesting facts on the issue:

“Another issue is that a high number of publishing platforms, despite their heavy reliance on third-party companies for market research, are still unaware of who their audiences are. This is why I say that advertising can benefit greatly from a total re-architecture of information stacks along decentralisation lines.”

But first, the revenue loss problem

“It is one of the strangest problems we continue to face, where we still don’t know where half of our advertising dollars are wasted or put to good use, or if the waste is happening at all,” Ragothaman mused. “We have access to so many mapping and collection tools but the mystery of which half of the spend cycle is wasted or not continues to haunt us.”

He mentioned three key factors for this “trillion-dollar problem”:

“Every other industry has solved the standardisation problem but we still haven’t. This continues to make audience discovery difficult,” Ragothaman explained, adding that a poor understanding and unified view of the consumer journey also muddies the quality of data sourced, and how it is eventually used.

A total revamp necessary?

A complete rehaul of current systems, he said, would mitigate these problems greatly.

“Firstly, user identification is key to advertising effectiveness. It helps correct measurement and attribution,” he remarked. “Secondly, we have built a Tower of Babel comprising technology stacks one over the other – we try to solve one problem against another, like applying a band-aid over the last. Digital marketing today requires standardisation to unify multiple platforms and make audience discovery possible.”

He added that today, good marketers require at least 40 data points to analyse audience information and make sense of it. But these are not always accessible or correctly sourced.

Decentralisation: The best way forward

The question now is, how to tackle the three problems listed above?

“This is where decentralisation comes in as a vital element. At the very least, it will help brands and advertisers have their own customer data platforms and link these platforms properly with third-party companies.” 

Decentralisation helps standardise the entire supply chain, especially if the industry implements solutions like shared ledgers.

“A shared ledger gives every participant in the supply chain access to the same information as everybody else,” he said, listing the key attributes required to make the shared ledger a valuable link in the supply chain: data encryption, ability to capture and carry information across the supply chain, consent management, independent third parties for assessment, and systems that are non-biased, auditable and able to detect fraud.

Ragothaman named two new kids on the block: consent and provenance.

“This is important from the consumer standpoint,” he explained. “It means that every data owner should have the capability to demonstrate how data was collected, used, stored and shared. It also includes justifications for how and why the data was used and the ability to hand over these justifications if the consumer asks for them.”

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