Smart Contracts

IBM and Unilever join forces to bring transparency to digital advertising

IBM and Unilever want to use blockchain to clean up digital advertising

IBM Blockchain has announced a partnership with Unilever, the world’s second largest advertiser, to bring blockchain to the world of digital advertising. The duo are hoping that the introduction of the technology will inject some much-needed transparency into the digital ad ecosystem and bring down the costs of advertising online.

Unilever, who own brands such as Lynx and Ben & Jerry’s, have been frustrated with the state of digital advertising for some time. The company’s CMO Keith Weed recently made comments that the company, which spent £6.8 billion on advertising in 2017, was thinking about pulling its ads from Google and Facebook due to concerns the platforms were driving division.

The digital advertising ecosystem is plagued with fraud and mistrust. Some estimates put the percentage of ad spend that is fraudulent at 20%, or around $16.4 billion. Other issues created by the complex new environment include a lack of quality control, security and financial transparency between the parties involved.

These concerns have brought Unilever and IBM together to see if blockchain technology can help bring back trust to the digital ad buying ecosystem.


Blockchain technology seems almost tailor made to help provide positive solutions to the problems of digital advertising. Once a transaction is validated through the consensus process, it is stored on all ledgers in the network for all participants to see. This means that there can be no ambiguity over what was agreed or what buyer expectations could legitimately be.

A blog post on the IBM site says:

“By providing participants full transparency into the process, blockchain guarantees status accuracy and minimizes the risk of manipulation.”

IBM and Unilever are already in the process of building the first blockchain solution for media buying, using IBM Blockchain and being designed by IBM iX. The solution will begin with basic financial reconciliation solutions for digital media buying, before expanding out to try and solve other problems within the ecosystem.

The first phase will look to provide a “unified view of audience delivery” using smart contracts that validate the agreed figures. This should solve issues around reconciliation where issues around discrepancies can sometimes take weeks to resolve.


Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person? Find out more at the Blockchain Expo World Series, Global, Europe and North America.


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