Let’s Talk Tech: YouGov Direct’s Blockchain-Based Platform

YouGov Direct
May 1, 2018 · 4 min read

YouGov Direct aims to take an innovative approach to serving ads through the blockchain: the system is expected to prioritize user privacy and anonymity while specialized smart contracts enforce a rule-based, fully-auditable record of all transactions on the network.

Here are the key components of the platform technology:

Blockchain Addresses

Addresses on the YouGov Direct blockchain would correspond to one of three types:

User Accounts

After a user joins YouGov Direct and selects their data preferences, the platform would create a blockchain address for the user indicating the types of data the user is willing to make available for the purposes of matching them with advertisements (their age or movie interests, for example). Account addresses would be anonymous; only the user and YouGov would know which blockchain address is associated with that particular user.

Ad Campaigns

Advertisers wishing to serve ads through the platform would create a smart contract for their ad campaign through the YouGov Direct web portal. The smart contract would consist of the maximum allowed cost per ad, the set of targeted user attributes, and a start and end time. The campaign’s total budget would equal to the capital balance sent to the smart contract. Advertisers would be able to end their campaign and retrieve any unused capital by transferring it to another blockchain address.

Basic Accounts

Advertisers and other platform participants may be able to store their capital in a basic account when the capital is not currently pledged to an ad campaign. Basic accounts would not have any special attributes.

How it Works

Ad Records

It is intended that every time a user views an ad, YouGov Direct would send a certified record of the ad to the campaign’s smart contract. This record would consist of the user’s blockchain address and the ad’s price. The smart contract enforces that every ad served conforms to the parameters defined in the ad campaign: the ads must be served between the start and end time at a price no greater than the maximum specified for the campaign, and the user must have granted consent to use the required attributes. To maintain user privacy, a separate consent grant is used for each ad record with the identity behind the consent grant known only to the user and YouGov.

Ad Payments

YouGov Direct intends to utilize payment channels for capital transfers to and from the Ethereum public chain. When a user begins receiving payment from ads, YouGov would stake capital into a payment channel with that user. As the user collects more payments on the platform, they could automatically transfer these to their channel: YouGov Direct would update the payment channel to reflect the increased balance. The user may close the payment channel at any time to retrieve their capital.

Advertisers may also create a payment channel with YouGov Direct. This would allow them to transfer capital to the platform as needed, without storing a large balance on the platform. All participants would have the option of creating and managing their own private keys for both the YouGov Direct platform and the Ethereum public chain. Alternatively, they could allow YouGov Direct to manage one or both sets of keys for them through the YouGov Direct Wallet. The wallet could automatically open and close payment channels, continuously update the payment channel off-chain as the user receives additional capital, and sign transactions for the user’s accounts.

Operating at Scale

Each ad campaign would be assigned to one child blockchain. The child blockchain would hold a complete record of ads served and payments made for that campaign. Advertisers and other participants would be able to transfer funds between the child blockchains as needed.

Why Blockchain?

It is intended that the following data will be published to the Blockchain with each transaction:

• User grant of consent for targeted data

• Payment amount

• Ad campaign id

• Ad campaign desired attributes

This data, combined with the immutability and transparency of distributed ledger technology would satisfy a number of needs, all of which are necessary for YouGov to help panelists realize the full value of their data and allow advertisers to assess with certainty who or what verified the authenticity of each viewer and their attributes and discover what percentage of ad spend is going to viewers. At the same time, panelists would be able to assess which of their attributes are of value to third parties and view what share of the ad spend they are receiving. YouGov Direct would also allow online businesses to meet GDPR criteria while many existing ad networks are not on track to be able to do so. Overall, by building its platform with blockchain technology, YouGov Direct increases transparency for all parties, from panelists to brands and publishers.

YouGov Direct

Written by

YouGov Direct is a blockchain-based platform and ad network that empowers users to choose which attributes they make available to advertisers.

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