future speak

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What if we had the capacity to have our children - our eggs and our partner's sperm - in an incubator-like setting, a confined, womb-like setting?

AD: Reproductive issues have been an area of heated social, political, and religious debate. Will the future change that?

GG: No. Thanks to new technology, these issues are only going to become more complicated and more heated in the future. Technology is giving us the capacity to create life where there wasn't life before. The fallout is going to first affect the group of women who will be the pioneers in using these new technologies, but eventually it will reach the entire women's market.

AD: What new reproductive technology will cause the most fallout for women?

GG: A lot of women are uncomfortable with the concept of having a life growing inside of them. I have no idea why, it's probably psychological. But what if we had artificial wombs? What if we had the capacity to have our children - our eggs and our partner's sperm - in an incubator-like setting, a confined, womb-like setting? We'd be able to watch that life growing and witness its development. We'd all learn so much from it.

AD: Is this "outsourced pregnancy" really scientifically possible?

GG: It's going to come. We're not at the stage yet where we can do this, but with the research we are doing on animals, we've brought the fetus almost to gestation. But even when it becomes technologically possible, there will be significant social stigma attached to women who choose to use an artificial womb or any new reproductive technology. This will create a challenge for marketers because, while there will be demand for products such as this, it won't be overtly stated. Companies are going to have to figure out how to design these products and how to market them in a society where consumers will be stigmatized for wanting them.

AD: How do you think marketers will be able to overcome this?

GG: I think it's going to be on a regional basis. In some markets, these products will be available; in others, it won't. Our country is becoming more Balkanized around these issues and these products.

AD: What's another important trend in reproductive issues?

GG: The major trend is to get contraceptives out of the bedroom, since it's one of those things that takes away a little bit from the romance. Research is heading in some interesting directions. For instance, what are the two things that often lead to unprotected sex? Drugs and alcohol. So, perhaps eventually, we'll have a beer that you could drink that would have some spermicide in it. Again, this is something you'd see only in certain regional areas. I don't see this happening as a national trend, where you'd have national commercials with people drinking beer that prevents pregnancy.

AD: That seems like a trend that will affect younger women, and yet our society is steadily aging. What impact will our graying nation have on reproductive issues?

GG: There's going to be increased attention to elder sex. Obviously, Viagra is the start. But there's going to be a strong demand for products that can enhance activities in the bedroom. Since a lot of these seniors tend to be monogamous, they're going to have different needs than younger people, who tend to be more free. It's critical that marketers talk to seniors and figure out what they want.

Since the early days of advertising, women - more than any other demographic group - have lived under the constant scrutiny of the marketing microscope. From being viewed as the perfect market for soapsuds to being accepted as the executive decision-makers for IT systems, the last century brought enormous changes in the way companies communicate with female consumers.

But if you thought the 20th century transformed women's lives, just wait and see what's in store for them over the next 100 years. Women's lifestyles and attitudes in the 21st century will center on reproductive issues, says Gio Gutierrez, a futurist with the Institute for Alternative Futures, in Alexandria, Virginia. Although women today are certainly capable of being more than mothers, it's the battle between technology and morality that will shape women's lifestyles for years to come, Gutierrez predicts.

Gutierrez has spent the past eight years studying trends that impact women. She's brought her expertise to a roster of clients that includes some of the nation's largest pharmaceutical manufacturers, consumer product companies, and organizations such as Planned Parenthood.

American Demographics asked Gutierrez to share her ideas about the growing significance of reproductive issues - and what that may mean for marketers who plan to target the women's market of tomorrow.

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