Does Super Bowl XLVI Portend the Future of Media Planning?

Super Bowl XLVI was a historic event. For the first time, our nation’s biggest single-day sporting event was streamed live online. This migration is a big deal. To understand how, I had a “fireside chat” with Jonathon Shaevitz, CEO of Maxifier, a technology company enabling digital publishers to visualize, optimize, and maximize campaign inventory and performance in real time.

Hollis Thomases: Jonathon, what does the streaming of a mass event like the Super Bowl online mean to advertisers?

Jonathon Shaevitz: In times past, Super Bowl advertisers had only one option for delivering their ads. They bought a spot, and that spot was broadcast to the public at-large. The Super Bowl’s popularity and mass audience reach was the primary appeal, but the ability to watch this kind of content online now changes everything. Super Bowl advertising is a bit unique because these ads are viewed as entertainment themselves so the judgment about the “best ad” is based on entertainment value, not necessarily effectiveness.

But as more and more content moves online and the lines between “television” and “online” viewing blur, ad effectiveness will be something that can be measured in a way that really hasn’t been a factor in television advertising before. The broadcaster – in this case NBC Universal – will know far more granular information about an online viewer than a television viewer, and this information can allow them to serve ads more targeted for this individual user (or household) than it ever could with TV advertising. In this kind of situation, technology like ours not only helps publishers identify what ad impression to serve to that user in real time, but also the kind of ad impression (web, mobile, social, video, and so forth).

The difference will be that all the ads can engage the user in a direct and meaningful way. We will really start to see the notion of ad engagement and performance take off differently than it has previously been limited to with an online-only experience.

HT: So in a few years, we won’t be distinguishing between “television” and “online” – what is this going to mean to ad creative? Will there need to be multiple versions of an ad so it’s more well-suited for the target user or will advertisers still try to fit into the one-size-fits-all approach even though they’re buying on a more granular level? And if multiple ads are needed, will performance improvement increase enough to cost-justify the additional ad production?

JS: Advertising is fundamentally changing from a megaphone to a dialog. Ads might go more direct response with calls-to-actions they couldn’t offer a television viewer before like “share this” or “take this poll.” It might be that advertisers use the same ads as they otherwise would but instead of buying programmatically, they instead define to whom they should be served and let the technology do the work. The idea of mass consumption is changing. We are likely to see different ads even if we’re all watching the same program.

HT: Will the “collective consciousness” of advertising be lost? What happens to the water cooler talk about “Did you see the latest ad about…?”

JS: To some degree, possibly.

HT: Will this kind of targeting and segmentation ultimately lead to more ad dollars flowing into the space?

JS: I could see this being the case because 1) advertisers will continue to pay premiums for spots that generate real performance; 2) with this kind of granular targeting, access to programming won’t be limited to big brand advertisers alone; 3) self-serve platforms will permit smaller advertisers to get in on the game.

HT: What about all of this data? Couldn’t there be additional hard and soft costs associated with all of this new data like talent/resources to analyze and assess all of this data; delays in product launches/redirection in product development; etc.? What kind of challenges does this alone present to advertisers and in the long-run, will it really help (or harm) efficiencies?

JS: The amount of data we’re dealing with is extraordinary and managing/tracking/measuring this is overwhelming (for any single ad Maxifier serves, we capture between 15 to 20 data metrics for that ad). Challenges for the advertiser range from collecting and understanding all of this data (including all the nuances), to making actionable sense of it. The tools used to analyze all of this data today are still blunt instruments and all the tools are different (for example, measuring what’s happening on YouTube versus on Facebook).

Advertisers need to be aware that if nothing else, they can test their assumptions faster and that they need to learn how to influence the dialog because you cannot change it.

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