In a recent study of college freshmen, it was revealed that the skills we once assumed to be vital for business success – research using books and journals, proper grammar when writing letters, crafting informational documents or publishing and the like – are now obsolete, and that over 90% of college freshmen don’t possess them. They also noted that e-mail communication is already deemed “too slow” by today’s college freshmen, who have no concept of television with less than 250 channels, having been born in 1992, long after the cable expansion and the introduction of satellite TV.
These same freshmen have never possessed a record album, or conceivably a pre-recorded music CD, having come into their teens after the original MP3 file format was introduced. Fax machines are obsolete antiques, land-line phones passe, and with them phone etiquette similarly out the window. Pay phones are a mystery, a story told around campfires . . . you get the picture. Technology, especially in the communication world, has accelerated at a remarkable rate, leaving behind what seemed to be perfectly viable formats and forms of communication.
These same college freshmen, who don’t know from cassettes, will be entering the workforce in four short years, and a small percentage of them potentially taking on tomorrow’s marketing challenges. By that time, full media integration that has been trumpeted as the be all and end all of communication technology may be in place on a national or global scale, and there will essentially be one, web-driven media, all played wirelessly through whatever monitoring device happens to be handy, be it a plasma TV, the screen in the car, or the front of the refrigerator. Everything will have an IP address, from the phone to the washing machine. Everyone will have to be a web producer, a video producer, or designer, and every speech or form of communication will be measured in megabytes or terabytes, not in pages or words.
Grammar is already slipping at an alarming rate, with proper forms of English dropping off the cultural map like electronic flies, to be replaced by slang, initials, acronyms and emoticons – we’re slowly sliding back to early Egyptian hieroglyphs. How do you diagram the phrase “LOL :)!” ?
The ads of the future will only have to be produced for electronic consumption, and will be a mix of images and scrolling, hopping, swinging and fading text, compressed down to the smallest file size possible and distributed through 3 big outlets. Print will be an anachronism, copywriting a dead art, direct mail reserved for senior citizen newsletters and billing inserts in large print, with ads flashing on big, wall sized screens in all the retirement homes, which will automatically change to match the information emanating from a chip in their forearm as the seniors walk by, ala Minority Report. Well, maybe not that last one in four years, but you get the idea.
With only one medium to consider, media buying will consolidate into a government function controlled by the FCC, and time will be bid on in auction style on E-Bay. Marketers will no longer have to consider paper stock weight, envelope size, postal rate case, number of sheets on a billboard, magazine doubletruck gutters, facing page competitors, color fidelity, dot gain, screen density, and a host of other routine, mundane production detail-oriented skills required by the marketers of yesteryear. Freed from those details, will the ads be more persuasive, more effective, more targeted, more efficient? They will certainly be trackable, which is an advantage, but my guess is that how that tracking can be used will have to be heavily regulated to prevent rampant abuse.
I’m not much of a futurist, but I am a student of history, and you can easily compare the current communications integrity status to that of the latter stages of the Roman empire – I’m breaking out my fiddle as we speak . . .
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