Crypto currency – there is still time to get in on the gold rush

Ben Milne is the Head of Platforms and Partnerships for Posterscope

5 – 7 minute read


Most will no doubt have heard of bitcoin and the blockchain that enables the cryptocurrency to function. Clay recently explored the disruptive power this technology could have on the media supply chain in a piece he wrote for Campaign Asia you can read here.

For this article I intend to focus not on the encryption and blockchain but instead on the currency aspect of Cryptocurrency, through the lens of my own personal experience.

To me the idea, that exists at the heart of Crypto currencies, that vast power structures such as central banks can be disintermediated and their functions decentralised breaking down monopolies and accelerating the transition to a more just & equal society is the idea that got me hooked.

My first experience of cryptocurrency began around 7 or years ago. It was a spring evening in 2010 and I read an online article about a virtual currency that was going to completely transform the global banking system and the way we all trade with each other. A few days and a lot of articles later the decision was made, I had become a Bitcoin miner. Donating my spare computing power to a lofty goal wasn’t new to me – I was already participating in SETI@home (the decentralised search for extra-terrestrial intelligence). At this stage the monetary reward didn’t really factor into decision making at all, Bitcoin was valued at $0.08 then,  earning a few cents every day or so wasn’t a big motivator.

Once I had setup an old gaming PC at home correctly it began its job of processing transactions on the bitcoin blockchain and in return I was rewarded periodically with bitcoins. The great thing was that once setup you could forget about it. After a few months the constant computer fan noise became annoying and I got bored with the project so I turned off the machine and made a mental note to check the results some day later.

Fast forward to today and somewhere along the journey the old mining PC has either been sold or lost and having moved house and country three times in that time the chances of locating the data intact are next to zero. I have no way of knowing how many bitcoins I was rewarded, I never did get round to checking, although most of my investigations suggest it would be somewhere around 100  bitcoins which would have been worth around $8 then but would be valued at just under $400,000 today!

The next time my life intersected with Bitcoin was November 2013. The FBI shut down The Silk Road, a darknet black market and consequently Bitcoin was back in the news.  At this point one bitcoin was valued at around $100 and it had become economically unviable for single users to mine them using amateur hardware (the cost of electricity outstripped the value you would potentially receive in return). Having recently read a convincing economic article that argued a single bitcoin would end up valued at $20,000 (based on the cap of 21 million bitcoins that exists) I decided the time was right to buy in, a good decision it seems as I have theoretically seen 4000% growth, although if I will ever cash out is another question and another article all together.

As a currency I think it is still really early days and there is a long way to go. There aren’t really that many ways to acquire or spend it and the main economic activity happening seems to be Cryptocurrency trading. The rare few times I have been presented with the opportunity to use bitcoin to pay for something I have instead opted to hold it and pay with ‘fiat’ currency (normal government backed money).

The only thing I have ever bought with Bitcoin is other Cryptocurrencies, known in the market generically as ‘altcoins’ and that is only because for many of them it’s the only way to buy in.

Bitcoin is just the tip of the Cryptocurrency iceberg, the more involved you get you will come across digital wallets, cold storage offline wallets, Cryptocurrency exchanges, ICO’s (initial coin offerings – like an IPO but unregulated!) and more, each adding a new layer of complexity to the landscape that you previously thought you understood. Making big bets is not for the faint hearted, daily swings of up to 50% in either direction are currently quite normal for some altcoins meaning you could effectively beat the casino or you might just lose your shirt and your house if you were that way inclined!

Since the success of that small investment in 2013 and the realisation that I missed out big time on the early days of Bitcoin I have made small investments into other crypto currencies, hoping to recapture the opportunity, such as Ethereum, Litecoin, Nav Coin, Ripple and others. Some of those have turned out to be great others not so and recent regulatory overreach in China has led to a lot of instability in the market which has sent portfolio’s tumbling however despite this I am bullish on the future of Cryptocurrencies in general and I don’t mind making a few bold predictions about how I think this could impact our business or industry (over and above the Blockchain applications pointed out by Clay).

So here we go with my Cryptocurrency predictions;

  • If not already then by 2020 we will encounter a client or supplier who wants to pay or be paid in Cryptocurrency so before then we will need to establish rules around this.
  • One of the big technology companies will launch their own Cryptocurrency (my bet would be Google first) and maybe even begin to pay staff in this. The ICO will be huge too!
  • At least one person in our global network will become a cryptocurrency millionaire, I am doing my best to make it me but its early days still so there is time for everyone to get involved.
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Porn and advertising – Will there ever be a hook-up?

Vivekanand Salunke is the Regional Associate Director of Strategy of Carat APAC.

5 – 7 minute read


Did you know porn receives more regular traffic than Netflix, Amazon, & Twitter combined? 
35% of all internet downloads are porn movies.
Porn accounts to at least 30% of all data transferred across the internet.

Yes, it’s not secret that porn is one of the leading industries driving website traffic online. Pornographic websites are responsible for up to 30% percent of all visits on the internet worldwide. Porn sites are clearly the favoured choice, as it outranks gambling, beauty and fitness, travel, health, and recreation. And its not just a male thing; over 30% of traffic is female.

For this article I am going to take you through how advertising has started to open up when it comes to advertising on porn and its foreseeable future.

As taboos about online porn break down and new generations of singles see dating sites and apps as their first stop in the search for love, marketers have spotted an opportunity. These digital venues have become the next logical place for advertising to grow and reach an expanding audience. Since the rise of advertising via dating apps or porn sites many big brands, organisations and innovative start-ups are choosing to launch campaigns on hook-up apps and, more controversially, porn sites that were once the preserve of seedier promotional content.

Some bold brands have understood the audience potential porn industry can unlock and they have started running campaigns specific to porn environment. Fashion brand Diesel ran a campaign on Pornhub and Grindr. Diesel’s campaign on Pornhub and Grindr showing a toned model with killer abs in nothing but his underwear, with the words ‘No Filter!’ written down his leg, was a perfect fit for a particular segment of the brand’s audience, and brilliantly targeted. This campaign was one of their most effective campaigns with pornhub becoming their number referring site for Diesel.com.

The reasons for this effectiveness is quite clear, these channels are much cheaper than advertising on Google, Twitter or Facebook, and with the chance to stand out from the crowd. Content from the porn industry enjoys a much higher rate of user engagement, and massive traffic volumes far in excess of anything else online, to make it a relatively uncluttered marketing space for legitimate brands to reach men/women of all ages.

Diesel was a great example but there is a thin line since not every brand can embrace this trend as the medium would be too controversial for some. Brands should be rightly wary of aligning themselves to the sector.

Interestingly, food-to-go start-ups have embraced porn-site advertising. However, their experiences vary widely and demonstrate that nobody can make assumptions and nobody can take their audience for granted.

US app Eat24 took the plunge and credited its porn-site campaigns (plus the ensuing publicity) for taking it from a cash-strapped, me-too start-up to its $134m acquisition by Yelp.

The brand had managed to reach many more potential customers than if it had advertised on Google, Facebook or Twitter, and at about 10% of the cost. It generated massive traffic from first-time users (a claimed 90%), with customer retention four times that of Facebook

Conversely, Zomato, a restaurant-search and food-ordering site that was founded in India and now operates in more than 20 countries, made a highly publicised entry into advertising on porn sites last December – a decision it reversed, equally publicly, days later. It had seemed to make sense. India is the third-biggest source of traffic to Pornhub worldwide. Yet, despite Zomato’s humorous ads generating millions of clicks and a rise in order volumes, all at a very low cost, the backlash was instant and intense.

While there are a lot of pros for advertising on porn sites there are a lot of cons as well. In a lot of countries porn is illegal so when a brand is seen on a porn site it might face a massive legal action. Ad fraud is one of the biggest concerns as it happens in normal digital environment then what can happen when you go advertising on porn sites. My prediction advertisers will be cautious till the time there are more global and organised porn websites such as pornhub etc. who can assure quality brand environment. This is no small feat considering the often written about industry difficulties in ensuring transparency.

Our predictions for marketers who may consider porn as a viable space.

Its not going mainstream anytime soon. I have been on porn websites and the conditions in which the brands get advertised are not really the best. Brands need to and will be staying away from the local porn sites which are not commercialised yet as they don’t have the right environment as a pornhub has. I couldn’t see any branded ads on offer such as an ad for an apparel brand or a perfume or deo. While consumers may be loosening up about sexual content they consume online, it’s going to take a while for mainstream brands to consider this as a route to market. The businesses that should be using this ad space right now are the cheeky challenger brands that want to make an entrance and get talked about.

To get the share of increasing ad revenue the porn industry will get more organised and innovative – The global players like pornhub and youporn have already organised their sites and are trying to be more ethical by getting rid of abusive content. More and more players need to follow this trend to start getting the ad revenues. Unless then those sites have to be on their own which won’t be a sustainable model for them.

Will there ever be a mainstream hook-up between porn sites and advertisers? Some say necessity is the mother of all invention and in slow growth periods brands often seek new growth opportunities. There may be a real first to market advantage for courageous brands who see a potential fit and make the leap. However first to market can also be a double edged sword.

Whether advertising and porn will ever intersect really boils down to its mainstream acceptability in our moral consciousness.

 

 

Darknet – a light in the dark, or a place to avoid?

Vivekanand Salunke is the Regional Associate Director of Strategy of Carat APAC.

5 – 7 minute read


The DARKNET, by virtue of its name and also how you access it sounds like a murky world where bad things happen.  It sounds like something the Imperial Forces from Star Wars would have invented for their evil purposes. Yes, there are those illegitimate elements, such as sites for illegal trading, the infamous Silk Road drug exchange, and sadly even sites related to human tracking and child pornography rings have been thankfully busted. In reality 95% of the activity is a force for positive, such as NY Times site dedicated to anonymous whilst blowing to combat corruption etc.

Most of us don’t know about this unexplored, unknown side of internet. I have been on darknet during my university days hosting and accessing our study material, projects and even sharing computer games.

A while back I stumbled upon an article about Target (retail giant) been hacked and the customer credit card details appeared on darknet or sold in black market. The hackers gleaned through the customer names, credit and debit card numbers, expiration dates, and three-digit security codes from customers, data that can then be burned onto counterfeit cards and sold on the darknet typically for $20 to $45 apiece.

This is when I started to think and explore more about this topic. Darknet is an overlay network that can be accessed only with specific software, configurations, or authorization. Jamie Bartlett (journalist and tech blogger) nicely summarized the harsh reality of Darknet,

“The dark net is a world of power and freedom: of expression, of creativity, of information, of ideas. Power and freedom endow our creative and our destructive faculties. The dark net magnifies both, making it easier to explore every desire, to act on every dark impulse, to indulge every neurosis”

The dark net sits at the deepest layer of the World Wide Web which is split in to three layers; the top layer is the surface web which is what we have access to using Chrome or Safari, the second layer is the ‘Deep Web’ which are those sites which cannot be searched using a search engine. This doesn’t mean that these sites are suspicious. The deepest layer is called Darknet. In short we can say they are the different parts of the World Wide Web (WWW) where websites have different access rights. Darknet is the darker side of the web while Surface web is the clearer side. Yes, there are a lot of things which we don’t know.

Did you know that only about 4% of internet is accessible through search engines like Google, Bing or Baidu and remaining 96% of web contents only accessible with special tools and software – browsers and other protocol beyond direct links or credentials? Let’s have a glimpse of the rest of the web.

Ironically, darknet was initially used for anonymous communications within the Military, to keep messages encrypted and secret. The Darknet platform is designed to be invisible to any ordinary browser and you need specially designed browsers like TOR, I2P etc.

The darknet has often been portrayed in Hollywood movies as the murky realm where the baddies do bad things such as Hacking, drug and arms dealing, illegal access to webcams, and general espionage and subterfuge. In some instances this is true. There are also incidences of the shoe being on the other foot, as detailed in the recent documentary film Zero Days by Alex Gibney. The film details how the dark net was used by the secret services of the US and Israeli governments to (illegally?) bring down Iran’s supposedly peaceful nuclear power programme.

In reality a lot of people do benefit from the relative secrecy in darknet. The obvious use cases are for journalists and nonconformists to communicate with each other or to share their opinions without censorship. It is filled with activists’ websites, anonymous stock traders, and information databases for journalists, political chat rooms, instant messaging services, artist platforms, as well as the WikiLeaks portal where whistleblowers can submit information anonymously.

Having accessed (not through my work laptop) the darknet with some trepidation and poked around I found the following sites that re-enforces the positive forces.

A safe place: Like Quora, the dark web offers opportunities for individuals to share their personal stories. On some sites, survivors of abuse can discuss their experiences, name their aggressors, or console their peers who would otherwise feel uncomfortable talking about their experiences.

Shared experiences: Some countries subjugate their citizens on an arbitrary basis, including sexuality or religion. The dark web offers opportunities for people to form communities in a less extensively policed forum, where they can share experiences.

Access to information: Access to books can also be restricted for a variety of factors, and the dark web offers plenty of opportunities to read books that may either be doctored or entirely prohibited in the analog world. Have you read the original Grimm’s Household Tales (more often known as Grimm’s Fairy Tales)? They are not in many bookstores or libraries, but are available on the dark web. For billions of people, access through the open web is restricted, leaving only one option

The darknet is becoming increasingly more popular as evidenced in the rapidly increasing traffic numbers and related TOR downloads across the globe (TOR is the access point for entering the darknet). The following site provides interesting stats by country related to TOR.

https://metrics.torproject.org/userstats-relay-country.html

The stigma often attached to the darknet is starting to lift and in my own experience the darknet can be used to gain valuable insight into subcultures and trends. In fact I recently put a proposal together to dredge (crawl) the darknet for consumer insight for a well-known insurance company.

Whether the darknet surfaces as a morally acceptable place to gain access to valuable information remains to be seen. We do believe more and more users will try to be invisible using darknet – Keeping in mind the trend towards people wanting more data privacy more users will switch to TOR or equivalent browsers to hide their identity. In some countries, accessing certain internet platforms is illegal for some segments of society. This is visible by the fact that Tor users in UAE has increased exponentially.

In coming years, governments will be tasked with drafting and implementing better cyber laws that detail what kind of encryption and privacy tools can be used, by whom, and for what purposes. We should expect the same results from darknet, which in turn will pose its own set of social questions, including about how much we value our right to privacy, from the individual level to the organisational level.

Many governmental organisations are also taking action against these infamous and illegal marketplaces found on the darknet. Every shutdown spawns dozens of other work arounds. The anonymity in the supply chain is their strength.

For those curious about the various going’s on in the darknet but not wanting to actually enter it, there is a news blog accessible through the surface web which provides daily news updates related to all things darknet (https://darkwebnews.com).

Suffice to say, the darknet is difficult to pin down in terms of providing a definite “is it good” or “is it bad”. In many ways the darknet is a place that reflects the best and worst of our human traits and imagination, where good and evil co-exist.