A Brave mission to change digital advertising and empower consumers

Internet users are feeling unsafe and targeted

Internet users are feeling unsafe and targeted. Blockchain technology might provide a solution, and the Brave Browser with its Basic Attention Token (BAT) might revolutionize digital publishing, advertising and consumption as we know it. If you’re short on time, let’s start off with the main take-aways.

What you need to know about Brave and the Basic Attention Token (BAT)

  1. The blockchain-based Brave Browser with its Basic Attention Token (BAT) is the driving force of a revolution in digital ad revenue models.
  2. The Brave Browser empowers consumers with its strong focus on privacy, online user experience and user control.
  3. Anyone can get started today and by doing that get exposure to blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies.

What is wrong with digital advertising?

Data is powering digital advertising. Platforms such as Facebook, Google and the like entice us to spend more time using their applications in order to collect more data and to capitalize on our attention by selling ads. Companies pay large sums for highly targeted ads that deliver the right message and offer at the right time and right place. The value proposition for the consumer has been the prospect of more relevant and personalized ads, but at which cost? The attention economy and personalized online experiences are polarizing us as we get pulled deep down into the various rabbit holes relating to politics, religion, science and other very important topics.

According to Forbes, 76% of internet users report being uncomfortable with what tech companies are doing with their personal data, and more than 25% are estimated to be using ad blockers. A report by Hubspot states that at the end of 2019, as many as 527 million people worldwide were using mobile browsers that block ads by default, a 64 % increase from 2016. More mobile browsers than ever perform ad blocking by default, and mostly all browsers support it in some form.

In many eyes today’s internet is broken, and users are suffering the most. We feel that we are being tracked, tagged, and exploited. Privacy regulations are important, but we expect more from the tech giants in terms of providing consumers with control over personal information.

Some are stepping up to the challenge.

Either we all accept the $330 billion ad-tech industry treating us as their products, exploiting our data and starving publishers of revenue; or we reject the surveillance economy and replace it with something better that works for everyone.

Brendan Eich, Brave Software

Should publishers and advertisers care?

Traditional publishers have lost approximately 66% of their revenue over the past decade, adjusted for inflation. Platforms like Facebook and Google are taking a hefty cut and are directing the rules of the game. In addition, bots and malware are able to inflict increasing damage, platforms suffer from credibility crises, and ad fraud is a significant problem. Advertisers, on the other hand, lack sufficient targeting methods and information to deliver their content. Assuming the cookie is about to die, personal identifiers are disappearing, hence marketers, advertisers and publishers are all seeking good alternative solutions. The way forward in terms of identifying people across the open web is authenticated data provided directly by the user, such as emails and phone numbers.

Consumers, publishers and advertisers all have a strong case against the current state of online marketing and ad revenue models. Consumer data is being sold to the highest bidder, and the platform and platform providers are laughing all the way to the bank. Something has to change.

Blockchain technology might be the solution.

How can blockchain rescue digital advertising?

As a consumer, I watch ads and should be rewarded for devoting my attention. As a publisher, I produce content, such as this blog article, or a video on YouTube, or a tweet on Twitter, and I deserve some reward for that hard work if the audience appreciates it. The Brave browser and its Basic Attention Token might be the solution, and it is based on blockchain technology. The interest in blockchain has been steadily increasing since the birth of Bitcoin back in 2009. The hype in 2017 caused a massive bull run back then, but was quickly followed by a cold crypto winter. Meanwhile, development continued.

By 2023, blockchain platforms will be scalable, interoperable, and will support smart contract portability and cross chain functionality, taking us much closer to mainstream blockchain and the decentralized web.

Avivah Litan, VP at Gartner

The development and experimentation on the various infrastructures and technologies never stopped. This article by Gartner discusses blockchain in context of the Gartner hype cycle. A massive number of projects are appearing from the shadows, with various value propositions. Due to the imminent threat of inflation in various currencies, Bitcoin is being considered as an alternative to gold in terms of long term investment. The same goes for Litecoin, the silver of cryptocurrencies. Ethereum is “a technology that’s home to digital money, global payments, and applications”. And there are many more. Coinbase, a major crypto exchange, was listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange on Wednesday 14th of April, and recently several high profile investors and corporations have made their move into crypto in search for a better long term asset; Elon Musk and Tesla, Michael Saylor and my fellow Norwegian Kjell Inge Røkke, to mention a few.

Blockchain is now being used to disrupt the current marketing and advertising structure. Being peer-to-peer, blockchain could eliminate the middleman and lower the cost of advertising. It can keep the consumer secure as well as reward them for providing important information needed to provide better advertising.

The Brave Browser with its Basic Attention Token is one such blockchain project that is fully up and running. Their vision is to “end surveillance capitalism with a private ads and payment platform that benefits users, advertisers, and publishers”.

What is the Brave Browser?

Brave Software was co-founded by Brendan Eich, creator of JavaScript and co-founder of Mozilla (Firefox), and Brian Bondy, a former Mozilla employee. On November 13th of 2019 the Brave Browser 1.0 was launched, introducing a combination of strong focus on privacy with a blockchain-based digital advertising platform. The blockchain technology is used to anonymously and securely track user attention and interaction with digital advertising content, and that information is stored in a so-called distributed ledger. The Brave Browser is designed to fundamentally shift how users, publishers, and advertisers interact online by giving users a private, safer, and faster browsing experience, while funding content creation and rewarding user attention.

After two weeks of surfing the internet the Brave Browser has protected me against more than 13000 trackers and ads.
A screenshot from my own Brave Browser after two weeks of surfing the internet

There are other browsers emphasizing user privacy, one being DuckDuckGo which primarily is a search engine. Brave additionally blocks ads, cookies, fingerprinting, payment data, and more. To increase awareness it also provides data about the number of ads and trackers blocked, the amount of data saved, and the amount of estimated time saved. Their objective is “for readers to experience fewer ads that are more well-tailored to their interests“. In the future the people behind Brave and BAT plan to further quantify and monetize user action related to digital advertisements, as well as help to match up advertisements with users based on machine learning algorithms.

What are the key features of the Brave Browser?

  1. Faster and better browsing experience: Brave claims to offer 3-6x faster browsing. The feature Brave Shields performs automatic ad and tracker blocking, is customizable and can block invasive third-party ads, trackers, and autoplaying videos. This translates to better and faster web experience, but also significant memory and battery savings. Brave claims that it uses 58% less data and 40% less memory than Chrome. According to a recent study, mobile advertising resulted in as much as $23 per month in data charges.
  2. Consumers are compensated for opting in and devoting attention to digital advertisements: According to Investopedia users can enjoy a 70% revenue share in the form of Basic Attention Tokens (BAT). Users can extract BAT from their Brave Rewards wallet and convert the tokens to other cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, or fiat currencies such as Dollars or Euros, by using the Uphold wallet. You can also choose to support sites and content creators, or remove sites you don’t want to support. The private ads that you are being presented with are based on your browsing activity.
  3. Ad fraud mitigation: Although currently not well documented, the developers at Brave Software indicate that they plan to tackle a very important issue, the mitigation of ad fraud through “the use of cryptography, better client-side integrity, and transparency achieved through open source.”
  4. Publishers get rewarded for their content: As a internet user I can now support my favorite publishers and content creators by donating BAT as tips for great content, either directly as I browse or by recurring monthly payments. So far more than 1 million creators has signed up, including websites such as Wikipedia and creators on YouTube.

How popular is the Brave Browser?

On February 2nd 2021, Brave passed 25 million monthly active users, 8 million daily active users and 1 million verified creators. Only two months later they announced an increase to 29 million via Twitter (below). Google Chrome is the most popular and widely-used desktop web browser by far. The recent updates suggest Brave account for 0.05% of the market, while Google Chrome sits at approximately 65-75% depending on the source [1, 2]. In reality, the numbers might be different though, as Brave is ‘disguised’ as other more popular browsers. Users can be seen as originating from Chrome or Firefox, rather than from Brave itself.

What is the Basic Attention Token (BAT)?

After two weeks of surfing the internet the Brave Browser has rewarded me with a fair amount in BAT that I can later convert or donate back to content creators.
A screenshot from my own Brave Browser after two weeks of surfing the internet

Along with Brave Browser, the Basic Attention Token (BAT) was created in an effort to improve the security, fairness, and efficiency of digital advertising through the use of blockchain technology. It is built on top of Ethereum, it was launched in 2017, and is designed to enable the distribution of advertising money between advertisers, publishers, and online users that consume content. The Brave Rewards program lets users earn Basic Attention Tokens (BAT) by watching “privacy-respecting ads”. The BAT can be transferred to a cryptocurrency wallet or be used to tip content creators and publishers.

As of February 9th of 2021 more than 1 million publishers, or content creators, have registered with the Brave Publishers program. These include approximately 550 thousand YouTube channels, 130 thousand Twitter accounts, 85 thousand Reddit publishers, 85 thousand Vimeo publishers and 73 thousand websites.

Brave Publishers are registered publishers that I can make donations to as I’m browsing and consuming content. Instead of me watching ads to generate income for a content creator, I can instead donate an amount I deem appropriate. Are you a content creator? You can set up your account here.

The Basic Attention Token (BAT) is a cryptocurrency, and it can be traded as any other cryptocurrencies, for example at Coinbase. On the 16th April 2021 BAT was trading at $1.45, and had a total market cap of 2 billion U.S. Dollars. The circulating supply was at 1.49 billion BAT, with the total supply at 1,5 billion BAT. Recently, the U.S.-based investment firm Grayscale launched trusts that enable institutional investors to gain exposure to altcoins, including the BAT. The move was made after thoroughly assessing the demand and the integrity of the underlying protocols, i.e. a testimony to the belief in the BAT project.

A screenshot from tradingview.com shows that the development in the price of the Basic Attention Token (BAT) is significant.
Screenshot from tradingview.com showing the development in the price of the Basic Attention Token (BAT), as of April 15th 2021

The increasing adoption of Brave means the value of BAT will increase with it, due to scarcity, network effects as well as the adoption of Ethereum on which it is based. As you can see from the screenshot from tradingview, the recent hype and mass adoption of crypto has resulted in a pretty significant rise in its value. If you want to stay updated on the community around BAT, check out the Reddit group, and if you want to learn more about blockchain and cryptocurrencies I highly recommend the podcast Unchained by Laura Shin on Spotify.

All in all, this looks promising for publishers and consumers. How about advertisers?

How can the Brave Browser benefit advertisers?

Brave Ads campaigns are now supported in nearly 200 countries. Naturally the ads revenue has grown substantially over the past months. Well over 2800 campaigns have been run by advertisers such as Verizon, The Home Depot, The New York Times, Evernote and many more. Interestingly, although this is a number reported by Brave themselves, the average CTR, i.e. Click-Through Rate, for a Brave Ads campaign is 9%. In comparison to an industry average of just 2% that is truly impressive! Many brands also observe higher engagement with these ads. Here you can see a list of advertisers who are running ads on the Brave browser.

What’s next for Brave Software?

As adoption increases the development of additional services also continues. Brave has started developing a native crypto wallet for Desktop, Android, and iOS, and they have set up a BAT ambassador program to increase awareness about the utility of BAT.

Brave is also becoming a strong and public voice of opinion on topics regarding privacy, and recently decided to remove FLoC, Google’s controversial alternative identifier to third-party cookies for tracking users across websites. Brave stated that Google are “prioritizing the maintaining of the structure of the Web advertising ecosystem, and putting privacy second”. FLoC is described as grouping users with “similar” browsing habits into the same cohort. Each user’s browser will share a cohort ID, indicating which group they belong to, with websites and advertisers. Brave says that while FLoC might sound like a good idea on the surface, it could turn out to be far worse than third-party cookie tracking.

Any new privacy-risking features on the web should be opt-in.

Brave

As an internet user, where do you start?

Download the Brave browser, sign up with Uphold and connect it with Brave. In that way you can start collecting BAT and even convert it to other cryptocurrencies or fiat currencies to finance your ice cream this summer. It also makes for a very low threshold beginning for your crypto exposure. You can easily import bookmarks, passwords, cookies, and browsing history from other browsers such as Google Chrome.

Contribute to publishers that you appreciate. It’s a totally different way of approaching the internet and the content we all love. If we all start doing this today, we might contribute to making the internet cleaner and better for everyone.

Punish bad actors. By enabling the blocking of various tracking and ads you signal to websites and advertisers that you won’t take it anymore, you’ve had enough.

As a marketing professional, where do you start?

If you make content yourself, sign up as a Brave Content Creator and start collecting BATs for e.g. your blog. This way you get the feel of the idea, and you prepare yourself for the future. Familiarize yourself with the browser and how ads are placed. If you represent or work for an advertiser, have a go at Brave Ads. More importantly though, try to understand why this shift is happening, why consumers are dissatisfied with the current situation, and how we can make things better; a cleaner internet, safe advertising and fairer revenue distribution.

I’m gonna party like it’s 1999 because we have a chance to build the future of marketing all over again.

Michael Schoen, Forbes

On that note, thanks for your attention!

I have attached as many relevant sources as possible. If you really want to get started with understanding blockchain and cryptocurrencies, I highly recommend this podcast three-parter. Brave has themselves launched a podcast that “explores what influential marketers at top brands and agencies are doing to respond to the most pressing challenges facing the industry”.

Marius Vetaas Thomassen

My name is Marius Thomassen, and this blog is my playground. I usually write about the unrelated topics of digital marketing and improv theatre. Feel free to connect on LinkedIn. I lecture at the Kristiania University College in Oslo, Norway.

Cheers, Marius.

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