Advertising, 2044

As the digital age rolls on, the left-behind awards show books keep piling up around the office.  Once kept under lock and key by every creative director, they’re doorstops now.


I ran across the annual from the 1984 ANDY Awards (The Advertising Club of New York) and found Apple’s “1984” television commercial, the most famous Super Bowl spot. It was bestowed an Award of Excellence in the Business Products category, a perfectly nice b-to-b ad.

Looking back, it was a bit more than just an excellent business product or a great spot.  It was a flare, signaling the moment technology began to transform advertising. It was the cannon shot of creative destruction for an entire industry.

Email was years away from wide adoption.  Microsoft had just launched a new “word processor” called…Word.  Typography houses were still sending over sheets of headlines that art directors cut with knives and pasted down with spray glue.  You edited real film stock on a flatbed with a razor or you dared to use dazzling new ¾” videocassette technology.  The “World Wide Web” was approaching like a ghostly freight train full of dynamite.  That’s the funny thing about change. It doesn’t look like anything until it’s something. Who could see different, much less think different?

The index of the book reads like the manifest of the Titanic. Compton. Allen & Dorward. Cunningham & Walsh. But some agencies adapted and are doing well today. The advertising craft naturally hands us the tools to take on change.

We are awash in people desperately dissatisfied with the present. That’s a good thing, even if they might be, as David Ogilvy called them, “cantankerous egotists.”  Unleash your cranks.

Advertising is about data. “We pursue knowledge the way a pig pursues truffles,” said Ogilvy.  But everyone cannot have their heads down rooting truffles. Someone must watch for the distant train. Who is that person?

Advertising is for lovers. We love the craft. The people. The challenge. Most of the clients. But being in love can blind you to change. “I doubt if more than one campaign in a hundred contains a big idea,” said DO. Love the power of a big idea and be willing to walk away from everything else.

Come 2044, that’s one thing you can be sure of right now.

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