Ironically, while it contained much advertising, it featured no predictions about the future of this dishonorable old profession. Perhaps the editors didn't think people would be interested. Hold that thought. (Actually you don't have to, I'll be harping back to it ad nauseam.)
I've no doubt that if some overrated pundit in our business had been asked to opine, we'd have masticated through the usual latent drivel about interactive media/the Internet/Web sites/info superhighway/
virtual recall blah blah blah. That's the stuff of current agency forecasts to clients. It helps sell them on the notion that the profession is keeping up with the future as well as getting them to shell out for a couple of expensive online site designs.
It's Absolut bollocks. These new electronic options offer just that: a choice. Come visit our advertising-or not. For the moment, some are clicking on, mainly out of curiosity. Even the keenest industry proponents will cede that the audience consists of adolescent computer nuts and other industry proponents. But that will all change (they claim). In next to no time, every home will be online; hair sprays, Hyundais and hemorrhoid balms will all enjoy huge interactive ratings.
And people will become quickly tired of the commercial offerings and zap through to the main purpose of being online. Just like watching TV today. Because by and large, people aren't interested in advertising. (Told you I'd tell you so.)
They aren't interested for a couple of axiomatic reasons. First, the media where most of our messages appear are designed primarily for entertainment, and second, we've done a bloody terrible job of making our advertising even remotely entertaining. Put another way, we weren't invited to the party, and once we crashed it we behaved badly. (Whether we can ever make it up to consumers so that they will welcome us back is debatable; I tend to believe the contract is irreparably blown.)
As is more and more the challenge these days, the future will be a succession of aggressive attempts to jam our feet in the consumers' doors and yell loudly until they notice our clients' wares. Some directions are apparent: the on-screen corner logo, first used by MTV, which keeps the sponsor's motif present throughout "editorial," is ripe for exploitation. A few advertisers are already using these on their own ads, which is downright silly. The next challenge is to get a Lysol logo on the corner of a juicy, high-rating episode of E.R. Then see how much message can be subliminally snuck into the space before viewers get pissed and zap the whole show. No doubt we'll get to the point of having entire, mute "before and after" detergent demos eating into our favorite sitcom.
Perhaps we'll even tolerate some audio interruption (which I for one would welcome until they find some better comedy writers). We'll get to the point where no entertainment will exist without a permanent simultaneous commercial presence. Whatever, whenever people are watching, we'll be there. Hidden persuaders no longer, we'll make it impossible not to be seen. We'll learn to sponsor whatever they can't avoid. Already whole stretches of highway are being sponsored (kept clean . . . notice any improvement?) by local restaurant chains; sports fans have to visit the Continental Airlines (Brendan Byrne) Arena or 3Com (Candlestick) Park to see their favorite pro teams lose.
It won't be long before we're vacationing in Pearl Drops (formerly Yellowstone) Park, admiring 2000 Flushes (Niagara) Falls, and The Pontiac Grand Am Canyon. Whole chunks of geography will become appropriated: DisneyState, formerly Florida, (heck, they already own a whole town, Celebration); the Budweiser (Pacific) Ocean; even the United States of Marlboro Country (Warning: living here can be hazardous to your fetus).
Advertising will become a vast, expensive name game; giant corporate poodles peeing on America, claiming territoriality, kidnapping consumers, washing our brains cell by cell. If Folger's can "own" waking up in the morning, if Kodak can "own" memories, why can't Dockers "own" Connecticut? Who will stop products "owning" whole stages of our lives? Our homes? Our families? Will we all become quite literally "branded" like racing cars? This Gerber baby became a Toys
R Us kid, graduated from Microsoft
U., married an Ivory girl, spent the
fabric of his life in a Buick state
of mind, and . . . hmmm, owning death. Now there's a challenge.
And what of the future of witty narrative commercials and well-crafted print copy offering salient, pithy arguments requiring a modicum of attention? Poof!
Remember when 60-second commercials were the norm? These days even 30 seconds is a long time to hold people's attention (and barely affordable); 15 seconds is fast becoming the rule. Soon the bite will become as much as consumers can swallow. Get your slogan into short sharp shape now. "Where do you want to go?" "Enjoy the ride." "Just do it!"
Better yet, own a single word: Innovation; Excellence; Perfection; Gratification; Satisfaction; Fulfillment; No, no, too many syllables, way too long! They'll get attention deficit, tune out, switch off, zap out.
How about, Oh, Yeah!; Wow!; Aha!; Ooooh! Now we know why they spared us the next 100 years of advertising.