What will the next 100 years of advertising look like?

Where we’re going, we won’t need print.

Fast-forward 100 more trips around our closest star and we wind up in October of the year 2116. Aside from us all being dead I would imagine the world would look remarkably similar. We, as in humans, would be shuttling back and forward to the Moon like people go to Europe, and to Mars like people go to China. Products have changed, tastes have changed, cars drive themselves but we still have the same problems: not enough time, not enough money. But trees are still trees, the sky's still blue, clouds are still white, and five o'clock can’t come fast enough for most people.

Thinking deeper about what our industry, advertising, would look like we have to think about what it was like 100 years ago, and see the differences of today. Could they have even imagined? Most likely not.


October 1916

Then called “the Great War”, the first World War would go on for another two years. Woodrow Wilson and Charles Hughes were thirty days away from wrapping up their presidential campaigns, and Coca Cola had just debuted their formula as we know it today. There were steam ships, motor cars, and the aviation industry was like the tech startup industry today. People still got their news from papers since radio news was still four years away.

From a marketing perspective, the channels were limited. Insanely limited by today's standards. Of course everything was print, but it was usually one color, two if you had a budget.  

Imagine, for a moment, sitting at a desk on October of 1916. What would you have predicted? Alan Turing, the father of what we consider the modern computer, was only four years old. Phones existed, but usually there was only one per building. So an easy prediction would be phones in every home, maybe even mobile phones. Maybe even mobile phone advertising? Ugh. Cold calls.

The point is, no matter what we can imagine something may come along, like the internet, and totally upend our thinking of modern communication.

October 2116

Okay, so back to our routine-space-traveling Elon-Musk-worshiping futurama. Just like one could have predicted the spread of telephone technology in 1916, I think we can safely predict the spread of internet technology here in 2016. 60% of the world, still doesn’t have internet. So right now, we’re all in the minority—assuming you’re not reading this on a printed page. Advertising will have to keep up. We’ll be marketing and selling to a more diverse group of people than ever before. It seems every year that the world gets smaller, and that’ll be no different here.

It’s already happening, but online advertising will become more and more targeted and more and more and custom. It’ll get creepy, if it isn’t already. How many times have you talked about something, only to have it show up on your Facebook feed as an ad? Now what if this followed you to say: interactive billboards as your car drove you, or screens as you walked through an airport. Wearable tech will become more and more prevalent and, as it does, marketing on it will become more and more targeted. As you walk down the street, your glasses know that your fridge is low on milk, “Got Milk?” it says, pointing you to the nearest store.

TV as we know it will have all but disappeared. Everything streams now, whenever we chose to watch it. We either pay for premium services or we watch ads just like before. The data these companies get from those that stream their content, allows them to hyper-target commercials. At least now, they’re more relevant to us than they have been in the past.

Social media marketing is no longer called social media marketing, it’s just marketing. Now that 90% of the world has regular internet access, 85% of it is on some kind of social media platform. Brick and mortar stores are a thing of the past. Things can be bought with phones, watches, glasses, earpieces, kitchen appliances, and interactive displays - where drones deliver to your exact location. Wallets are also a thing of the past. People pay with their phones or devices. Ads now have direct one-touch purchase links at the end, driving up conversations and sales.

Space tourism is a popular market, much like the airplane industry at the turn of the 20th century, and the .com industry at the turn of the 21st. A new sense of adventure envelops the world, as we all become one and explore our solar system. Ads for communities on Mars and vacation rentals on the Moon can be seen everywhere. Everyone knows someone who regularly travels into space. We no longer talk about just Earth, but the Moon, Mars, and some of the moons of Jupiter.

Much like the McDonald's, DDB deal this past summer, agencies start setting up shops to work with just one one large client. The line between agency and client blur. Agencies find a better way to bill in performance vs. hourly rate. They become partners in their clients business and the average client/agency turnaround goes from three years to ten.


What Stays the Same

As a nerd, this is fun to dream about. Mars, the Moon, phones that tell you about milk. But what about what won’t change? In our industry, it’ll be people. People will still be bored, annoyed, and interrupted by our work. They’ll still want to turn away, tune out, and move along to their intended destination. It will still take great stuff to get their attention. I would say, even better work, because of the noise level of everything else. It will still take a great image, a great story, something interesting to get any attention. Sure, targets will be better, and the mediums will change; but great engaging work will still rule. Go back to 1916, people like us were still trying to do something interesting. Good stuff never goes out of style.