The year was 1988. America was watching the Huxtables and listening to INXS, bracing themselves for what Guns n Roses would bring. Shoulder padded suits, acid washed jeans and Aqua Net rounded out the remainder of the day. The face of advertising stood in simple and archaic terms by today’s standards. Then, graffiti was used for gang messages and political protest by West Germans, not yet discovered as powerful a branding tool.
Specialty advertising was reserved for mesh hats, t-shirts, and neon water bottles. Media buyers chose paper or airwaves. Guerilla tactics involved hiding in trees. The Internet was a classified military operation. And the little Italian plumber who jumped out of pipes and into our hearts to save Princess Peach was more powerful than any of the wizards and warriors online today.
Today, the world of advertising has turned from a desolate wasteland with sparse brands wielding dominance to an overgrown jungle of brand imagery fighting tooth and nail to survive. Twenty years has shrunk the outside world to the size of a Blackberry where mass communication is handled by the masses through blogs, text messaging, and viewer created content. Our search for the next big idea resides in the quest for the next YouTube smash. Age and location demographics mean less than the psychographics we use to unlock the secrets of commerce.
The products we sell are made overseas. We produce services that sell services to service providers. The mantra of location, location, location is silenced by PayPal and pay per click advertisers. What will be the aftermath of this technoplosion?
As every generation does when reflecting on days gone by, many believe the next 20 years will bring more clutter and chaos to the world of advertising. The pathos of becoming the next Coke or Disney will force branding to get more cut-throat. Every part of our life will become consumed by someone else’s message. More accurate tracking and ever increasing narrowcasting will have developed targeting so specific that the generic slogan will die. Personal information will cease to exist. Big Brother is the name of a Market Research firm. Even today, machines can generate clouds in the shape of logos. The sky’s the limit cliche has never been so close to a harsh reality.
But perhaps the skeptics are wrong. Evidence suggests that the masses are shifting the ad armada to calmer waters. Companies are being forced to be more responsible. McDonalds has been forced to focus on healthy choices and burn the Big Mac jingle recordings. Small business continues to grow as people tire of the Fortune 500 cubicle incarceration. Government is even starting to get involved in America. Not the United States, but South America, specifically Sao Paulo, Brazil. Those officials have outlawed outdoor advertising citing the billboards take away from their beautiful skyline. Maybe, in the next twenty years, advertising clutter will be considered pollution and be controlled by the EPA.
So, what do you think the world of advertising will be like in 2028? Let us know by posting your insights in the comments –