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CryptoRTB: Your Questions, Answered

2020 has been a transformative year for media and advertising. Connected TV consumption is way up. More brands and advertisers are investing in TV. Automation is increasingly playing a key role in ad markets. The list of game-changing trends goes on... 

Amid these shifting dynamics, however, concerns related to fraud, transparency and consumer privacy have remained. Fortunately, in late August, AdLedger announced its CryptoRTB protocol to address and tackle these lingering challenges. In case you missed it, here are some great recaps from MarTech Series and AdWeek

Building on this important milestone, I am excited to share that earlier today, AdLedger announced results from its first-in-market CryptoRTB pilot — with Beachfront and Madhive leveraging the privacy-first, open source protocol to address widespread problems in digital advertising. 

As our President and Founder, Frank Sinton, notes in Broadcasting & Cable, “the behind-the-scenes work of actually understanding and integrating technologies like cryptography to create efficiencies and drive data fidelity in digital advertising is now a reality. This proof-of-concept demonstrates to the collective industry that blockchain solutions can enable meaningful industry change.” 


We know you may have a lot of questions following this announcement, especially with regard to AdLedger, CryptoRTB, the pilot results, and how you can leverage this protocol today. Below, we’ve tried to answer these in as much detail as possible, but please do reach out to us with any follow-up questions you have. 

1. What is AdLedger?

AdLedger is the nonprofit research and development consortium charged with implementing global technical standards and solutions for the application of blockchain to digital media. The consortium is comprised of industry-leading companies —  including Omnicom, IPG, Publicis, GroupM, Dentsu, Hershey, Hearst, Meredith —  who have joined forces with the goal of furthering trust and transparency within the digital media space. You can learn more about AdLedger here

2. What is CryptoRTB, and how does it work? 

The CryptoRTB protocol is open-source technology that injects cryptographic tools such as digital signatures into the OpenRTB protocol, helping to: 

  • Identify illegitimate ad supply
  • Create a verifiable chain of custody
  • Create mechanisms for data access and validation for the digital advertising industry

Developed by Madhive and donated to AdLedger, the next-generation protocol leverages the MadNetwork blockchain (an open-source sidechain of Ethereum), which serves as a sophisticated and scalable key-value store for identity validation and data storage. More information on the CryptoRTB standards can be found here.  

3. Is cryptography used a lot in digital advertising?

Historically, cryptography has seldom been used in digital advertising. However, it has been used extensively across a number of other industries for quite some time — such as eCommerce — to solve challenges related to transparency and security. 

In fact, AdLedger’s Christiana Cacciapuoti recently noted that, “other industries quietly solved many of these issues years ago using open source protocols that incorporate cryptography. E-commerce, an industry adjacent to advertising where US consumers spent $601.75 billion in 2019, is the perfect example.”

4. What problems does CryptoRTB solve for?

As a privacy-first, open-source technology standard, CryptoRTB aims to solve widespread problems in digital advertising, including fraud, transparency and consumer privacy. 

Early findings from the initial deployment with Beachfront and MadHive include: 

  • CryptoRTB’s digital signatures identified and completely eliminated domain spoofing, a predominant method used by bad actors that contributed to the $23 billion lost to fraud last year.
  • CryptoRTB is 25 times faster and cheaper than Ads.cert, and it uses more secure cryptography to protect private keys from fraudsters. 
  • CryptoRTB’s digital signatures disintermediate industry middlemen and are forward-compatible with OpenRTB 3.0 and backward-compatible with 2.0.

5. How can I activate this today and/or get involved?

In terms of testing this today, CryptoRTB can be deployed by publishers with only a few lines of code that are inserted into the extension field of a bid request. Currently, there is no implementation lift for brands or agencies.

If you’re a publisher, brand or agency interested in learning more or getting involved in the next phase of CryptoRTB development, please reach out to us at or using the link below to get started.