The Super Bowl. What other single-day event can boast over 100 million viewers, all of whom are practically guaranteed to watch the commercials? And this year, the game’s ads are a bargain: a mere $2.7 mil for a 30-second-spot (compared to $3 mil last year). Ridiculous? Sorta. But pricey Super Bowl ads are as permanent a fixture as the game itself.

At least for now.

A recent survey found that nearly three-quarters of viewers see the commercials as entertainment, but less than one-fifth think the commercials make them more aware of the advertisers’ brand. That’s not exactly an efficient use of money.

More ad efforts are being focused on social media and online gaming. Anheuser-Busch, for instance, is revealing snippets of its upcoming commercials to Facebook fans of Bud Light, and Papa John's is offering free pizzas every 45 seconds on during the game to boost online orders. (Though for people like me, who work within walking distance of Patsy’s in NYC, this is far from appealing.)

Other companies, however, are beginning to believe that Super Bowl advertising can be a colossal waste of money. Modern day Mad Men can’t bank on the hope of creating an unforgettable or witty spot that gets replayed indefinitely on YouTube. The other growing reality is that technology – everything from outside-the-house video screens to smartphones to virtual reality to GPS technology – is completely changing the way products are sold.

So what’s coming? For one, technology will allow advertisers to process, collect and store such huge amounts of information that they will be able to see months of your personal data, including your location, time zone, photographs, text from blogs, shopping cart contents, emails and a history of the Web pages you’ve visited. Based on your individual profile, they will be able to tailor their ads specifically to you.

Companies will be able to decide what to advertise and when based on what we are researching or doing online at that very instant. Some media giants (including Yahoo!) are even helping firms purchase ads in the milliseconds between the time someone enters a site’s Web address and the moment the page appears on the screen.

And in full-out Christopher Nolan style, companies may soon begin inserting product placement into personal pictures stored on social networking sites using Photoshop and other visual tricks. Studies have shown that when you see a photo of yourself endorsing a product, it can affect how much you like it, your memory of it and how much you are willing to pay for it. Nothing tricks the brain more than self-portraits. And because of the close relationship between pictures and memories, “advertising inception” could eventually accomplish the much-desired goal of altering brand loyalty. [Ed. Note to self: Design pics of readers wearing ThePostGame.com hats!]

Other companies are trying to raise brand awareness by creating and selling virtual merchandise. MTV, for example, is giving away virtual replicas of celebrity fashion items, and H&M is using virtual goods to entice Internet users with actual discounts. As the real world becomes over-saturated, the virtual world will likely become the next hot advertising frontier.

And if that’s too zany for you, consider the real possibility that product messaging could soon be implanted directly into your mind.

So enjoy Super Bowl XLV while you can. By halftime of Super Bowl L, you find yourself photographed in a duck costume and yelling “AFLAC!”

-- Follow Erica Orange on Twitter at @ErOrange

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