Programmatic in the ‘Second Machine Age’


Provided by AdExchanger // Written by Frost Prioleau, CEO and co-founder of

Programmatic advertising continues to grow faster than analysts’ expectations, leaving industry pundits to continually raise growth predictions made just months before.

While this acceleration has been impressive, the industry is just getting started with even bigger gains in computer power to come – if we use the history of chess as a guide.

In the book, “The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in the Time of Brilliant Technologies,” authors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee note how a king, impressed by the game of chess, invited its inventor to calculate his own reward for his creativity.

The inventor asked the king for rice that was doled out in the following manner: He put one grain of rice on the first square of the board, two grains on the next square, four on the next, eight on the next square and so on.

On the second half of the chessboard, in squares 33 through 64, the nature of extended exponential growth really kicked in. The amount of rice needed for the 64th cycle was 210 billion tons, which would require a growing area twice the Earth’s surface area.

Ad tech, like many fields, benefits from the exponential growth in computing power as defined by Moore’s Law. While the growth in computing power to date has been extraordinary, we’ve still seen fewer than 32 cycles. This means we are only halfway through the proverbial chessboard, and even if the pace of doubling slows to every two or 2 1/2 years, the big gains in computing power are yet to come.

I see several beneficial ways in which a “Second Machine Age” of automation could affect the programmatic ad space.

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