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Earlier this year, Advertising Age published "The Advertising Century," a special issue looking back at 100 years of marketing. Today we publish its inevitable companion, the forward-looking "The Next Century," and take on the tougher task of forecasting the future.

It is futile to try to predict the shape of things to come -- but also irresistible. Still, rather than be held responsible for our own random ruminations, we chose to outsource the prognosticating. In the pages that follow, you will find provocative words and work from some of the top minds in marketing, media and society, each exploring different aspects of the coming consumer culture.

By design, half of this issue is grounded in today's reality, with a variety of clear-eyed views from thought leaders. The Rev. Jesse Jackson writes passionately about the multicultural marketplace. Shelly Lazarus evolves her theory on the future of ad agencies. Gerry Laybourne's thoughts converge on the new media world. There's also a vigorous Ad Age roundtable discussion starring WPP Group's Martin Sorrell, Microsoft Corp.'s Bob Herbold, Arthur Sulzberger Jr. of the New York Times Co., H.J. Heinz Co.'s Bill Johnson, Candice Carpenter of iVillage and Young & Rubicam's Peter Georgescu. Plus we have e-mails on the future from many of the marketing world's best and brightest.

In the lighter half of the issue, we set writers and artists loose to explore their imaginations and serve up more fanciful views of things to come. That begins with the cover, created especially for this issue by Matt Groening of "The Simpsons" and "Futurama" fame. In Randall Rothenberg's lead essay, Gramps5 narrates a wild ride into the future. At the tail end, Stanley Bing offers his bizarre view of the marketing world circa 2050. In between, creative hotshots from around the world serve up ads of the future.

There's our brazen list of which brands will thrive in the next millennium -- and which won't. And we present 21 people to watch, a list that includes some business leaders of today from whom we expect to hear more and others whose names you haven't yet learned but certainly will.

What you won't find in this issue is an article specifically about the future of the Internet -- which may seem odd until you realize that just about every story mentions the Internet or interactivity or e-commerce. Whether the discussion centers on the fate of print media, the new face of retailing, the personal communications revolution, the fate of branding or the intelligence of your refrigerator, the path there is through the Internet.

At the core of our exploration of the Next Century is the Advertising Age Consumer Marketing Survey, an exclusive national poll of consumer attitudes conducted by Applied Research & Consulting. This multigenerational, multidimensional survey examining changing attitudes about advertising, media consumption, shopping and branding.

Anthony Vagnoni, Ad Age editor at large, devoted several months and countless hours to this special issue -- many of them spent begging, pleading and cajoling industry leaders to share their visions of the future (within an assigned word count and tight deadline, of course). "Advertising Century" Design Director Martin Musker and Photo/Art Editor Susan Graening once again dazzle with the beautiful layouts and overall look of the issue.

As for the future, who really knows what will happen? Matt Groening's view of Times Square in the Next Century is spectacularly far-fetched (Girls, Girls, Aliens). But with the way the world works these days, it seems the more

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