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FastCompany yesterday made a splash with its The Future of Advertising piece. It's not the first time the magazine offers predictions about the ad industry. I've looked through the first 100 issues published between 1995-2005, and found at least 15 stories describing how broken the ad biz is and offering some version of its future; that's at least one story published every year. 


Rethinking Big on Madison Avenue, October 31, 1995 (FastCompany's first issue)
If you look at the level of organizational change in ad agencies compared with the rest of corporate America, it's like one is standing still and the other is running at 100 miles per hour. Agencies have not changed in 50 years.

The truth about companies has more energy than any fabricated advertising slogans. Every company has its own truths. It's even more true on the Net, a modern version of the old marketplace. There will still be people bullshitting on it, but the people who are putting honest communication across will succeed.

Branding Is Dead! Long Live Sustainable Identity! March 31, 1998. (That wasthe issue that introduced Zaltman's metaphor elicitation method and Godin's permission marketing)
The Internet has introduced a whole new group of players into the "influencer" chain that PR people must connect to, and the opinions of these Web pundits present a new challenge for PR to grapple with.

It's new! It's radical! It's digital! And it's designed for you. That's the pitch from a hot new crop of books on marketing. Together, they amount to a cutting-edge curriculum for connecting with customers.

This Virtual Agency Has Big Ideas, October 31 1999 (Basically, an early crowdsourcing model by Host Universal)
As the bathwater cooled, Smith returned to an idea that he'd been mulling over for weeks: Why not build a virtual agency -- a flexible organization that would be dedicated to generating strategic and creative solutions for clients? Instead of running a shop full of employees, why not contract work out to small, ad hoc teams that would offer the best available talent for any given project? Each team would work directly for a client. Its only product would be its ideas.

Change Agency, April 30, 2000
How does a fabulously successful, old-line ad agency reinvent itself for the Digital Age?  Those are the kinds of questions that occupy the staffers at Y&R 2.1, a fledgling agency-within-an-agency at Young & Rubicam. The 30-person shop was established last December with the goal of creating a bug-free version of a traditional agency.

Attention, Please, May 31, 2000
If Billboards are the ultimate symbol of old-economy advertising, then E*billboards are the next frontier of new-economy advertising.

Will Online Ads Ever Click?  February 28, 2001
The problem with Internet advertising isn't that there's too much of it (or, these days, less and less of it), or even that most banner ads make 30-second TV spots look like Oscar material. No, the problem is that Internet advertising just isn't smart enough.

Don't Shout, Listen, July 31, 2001
At Procter & Gamble, branding is almost everything. And in the age of the Web, almost everything is up for grabs. Here's how P&G has turned the Internet into a device for listening to customers -- and for experimenting with its brands.

Advertising, Under Review, March 31, 2002
Never mind the blank TV -- someone unplugged the entire ad business! When it comes to spending -- whether the medium is television, print, or the Internet -- the boom times are over. Clients wonder if agencies understand their problems, and consumers wonder why they should pay attention to what Madison Avenue produces.

More Than a Game, April 30, 2002
How many 2002 Super Bowl spots made you sit up and take notice? When was the last time you saw a banner ad that really clicked with you? Madison Avenue is in a creative slump. That's why marketers are testing alternatives to the 30-second spot and the pop-up ad. Their latest experiment: the "advergame."

Don't kill your television. Just paralyze it. Choke off its influence, smother its authority, and reclaim control over your evenings, Saturday mornings, and bathroom breaks. That is the directive from TiVo central, where technology is rendering the 30-second television ad impotent. Empowered viewers armed with digital video recorders are zapping through Academy Award speeches, opening credits, and thousands of TV commercials -- giggling all the way. And that is only the beginning of the end.

Buzz Without Bucks, August 1, 2003
Smart companies are discovering that you don't need big budgets to deliver a big message. By cleverly cultivating buzz, small businesses with tiny budgets can level the playing field with established giants.

Despite those worries, no new medium can go for long without being turned into a marketing channel. Got a message to get out or a product to promote? The blog world is populated by folks who thrive on racing to be first to post news and getting others to link to, or "blogroll," them. They're naturally the opinionated, hyperconnected influencers marketers crave. 

Commercial Success, January 1, 2005:
"The creative departments at ad agencies still see TV as the sexy medium," says Montague, who's now chief creative officer of J. Walter Thompson, "but their days are numbered. These people will either get religion or get left behind."  That might sound a bit hyperbolic, but consider this: In the late 1950s and early 1960s, even after broadcast TV had come to more than half of U.S. households, the reputable creative directors refused to make TV commercials, which weren't very good yet and still weren't admired or respected as an art form. Eventually, they got religion -- or got left behind.

Your Blog Here!  April 1, 2005
Yay! FastCompany names AdLab one of its favorite ad blogs because of its ad-futuristic bent.

After years of mass denial--of declining advertising effectiveness, of disruptive technologies such as the Internet and TiVo changing long-entrenched consumer behavior--the ad industry is finally beginning to acknowledge its baldness.