Web2 models for Web3 ad attribution don’t work — Spindl founder Martinez

The Chaos Monkeys author and expert applies his ad-tech wisdom to the blockchain


TierneyMJ/Shutterstock modified by Blockworks


“To be very mercenary and cold-blooded about it,” Antonio Garcia Martinez says, the ads marketplace is “literally, a marketplace in human attention.”

“I’m a publisher, right? I have attention and I want to turn it into money. I’m an advertiser, I have money and I want to turn it into human attention. That little yin yang is the dialectic that rules all in an ad system,” he says.

The author of bestseller Chaos Monkeys, Web2 ad-tech veteran and Spindl founder is tackling the problem of ad attribution in the nascent blockchain space. Described as “the first real way to do measurement and attribution in Web3” on his blog, Spindl figures out who is engaging with ads and ultimately delivering revenues to clients.

Speaking to Blockworks on the Empire podcast (Spotify/Apple), Martinez explains that the Web3 formula for ad attribution has to be entirely different from the old Web2 approach. “I pay Facebook 30 bucks for the user,” he says. “I kind of own the user. The user comes in and uses my app and they spend 70 bucks and they churn out, and that’s the full lifetime.”

“I pay for the user, I own them. I kind of milk ’em. They disappear.” But Web3 does not work that way, he says. Instead of “buying” users, he says, “you rent them.”

“Either you have to constantly pay them rewards — Blur comes to mind — for them to stick around or promise them rewards for them to stick around.” Unlike Web2, the monetization model in Web3 is ongoing, he explains, “like a coupon payment on a bond.”

Spindl crosses the Web2 chasm to Web3, but on the Web2 side of its infrastructure, Martinez says, it remains “pretty normy” in appearance, much like Google Analytics. “Where it gets a little weird,” he says, “is when you sign in with the wallet and you go on-chain and you start doing stuff and you’re kind of out of Web2.”

The smart way also happens to be the hard way

Before Spindl existed as a Web3 ad attribution service, people would “fire events into a conventional Web2 system,” mimicking what’s happening on-chain with double-entry bookkeeping.

“They had no alternative,” he says, “but it’s a very hacky way of doing it because you’re never going to keep up. You’re never going to keep up with what’s happening on-chain.”

The smart way to do it, Martinez says, also happens to be the hard way. “Indexing the sub graph correctly and measuring what’s happening on-chain correctly and backing that into the revenue number that you care about — that’s how we do it.” 

Martinez explains that the service tracks “the Web2 stuff in a very Web2 way.” But the difference is, the company also tracks “the Web3 stuff in a fully Web3 way,” he says. “Then, we join that in a different way, but that’s how we do it.”

“We don’t fire events to ourselves,” he says, “but the advertiser is not firing anything to us that’s happening on-chain. They don’t need to do anything in terms of integration.” Instead, he explains, Spindl does all the “heavy lifting of indexing stuff on-chain.”

“If you were fully on-chain, like a DeFi protocol, you would literally need nothing to integrate with Spindl,” he says.

Martinez explains that elements of the attribution process are centralized and off-chain “because the compute is just too fast and there’s too much going on for it to be on-chain.” But, he explains, “that gets paid in a very oracle-like way to a smart contract that then does pay natively on-chain.”

“We don’t believe in decentralization as religion,” he says, “but we do think there’s a proper Web3 way of building things. We strike what we hope is the right trade-off.”

“To the extent that it should live on-chain for the sake of being transparent, composable and permissionless, we do build on-chain. To the extent that it’s a complicated compute, it would be expensive to put on-chain, we don’t.”

For Web3 to ever reach a billion users on-chain, Martinez says, “there has to be a way for me to turn money into users.”

“If that machine doesn’t exist, we’re not gonna get to a billion users on-chain. It’s just not gonna happen,” he says. “Something has to fix that disconnect. And we call that ads.”

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