I’m a Jets fan, which means I’m doing everything I can not to think about the Super Bowl this year, played on my team’s home field yet with my team very, very far away. Instead of thinking of the big game of 2014, then, I’d like to imagine the Super Bowl in 2020.
By then, I’m sure, football will have changed: due to health concerns, all tackles, sacks, slams, and holds will be considered “unpleasant touches,” punishable by an automatic first-down for the opposing team and a mandatory letter of apology, written on official stationery and signed by all of the offending team’s members. The New York Jets, I’m sure, will continue their near decade-long dominance over the league, winning every title imaginable under the leadership of their incomparably brilliant coach, Dr. Mark Sanchez. And perhaps most important, all Super Bowl ads will be strictly programmatic.
It’s amusing, while thinking about the future, to reflect on a time, back in the gilded age of the late 1990s, 2000s and even the early 2010s, when Super Bowl ads were an event all by themselves. No sooner were the championship rings doled out than people gathered, around water coolers and on social media platforms, to discuss their favorites. Those were simpler times, when a few well-produced ads could reach millions of viewers and themselves become cultural touchstones.
But let us not spend too much time yearning for the good ol’ days. Clydesdale ponies and talking babies are all very nice, but the programmatic era will have achieved something far greater: maximum efficiency for the greatest number of people, which is what the future is really about.
When our smart TVs are all connected to our Google search history, our Amazon shopping record, and our Facebook profile, the ads we see will be meticulously tailored to fit our individual predilections and passions.
Which, to be clear, doesn’t mean that our ads will no longer be creative. To the contrary: as the lights-out disaster of the Super Bowl of 2013 showed us, the night’s most memorable ads came from quick and creative minds that were able to act in the moment and come up with instantaneous copy to reflect the dark reality on the field. This sense of immediacy is a key driver of the programmatic world.
Rather than months of planning, ending with one 30-second spot, we all follow the rules of improv. We react to the audience in real time. And just as improv changed comedy—giving us everyone from Eddie Murphy to Will Ferrell—so will programmatic change advertising, making it feel more personal and real.
Advertising in the age of programmatic will grow very close to a real conversation between corporation and consumer, which will not only make clients feel better but also open companies up to stellar ideas. For evidence in support of this optimism we need only to look back to 2013, when a consumer-driven campaign convinced Taco Bell to team up with PepsiCo and introduce a Doritos-flavored taco. The company resisted at first, and only agreed after a lot of individuals used Facebook to communicate their desire for the hypothetical product. The company made it real, and it sold more than $1 billion worth of tacos. The data we collect, then, allows us not only to deliver better ads but also better goods.
So while the Jets are probably not going to become a football powerhouse anytime soon, I look forward to a Super Bowl Sunday sometime in the near future when millions of Americans will tune in simply to watch the ads.