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3 science fiction marketing ideas that became reality

Content marketing can be a bit like writing science fiction sometimes. You have to convince your (possibly sceptical) readers that your worldview is valid before you can even start to tell them your story.

In science fiction, the little details are often the clincher. You can get away with something big and implausible, like travelling through space faster than the speed of light, if the minutiae of people’s everyday lives feel believable. Which is one reason why for years, creators of science fiction have speculated about the advertising and marketing of the future.

Here are some predictions that came true:

1. Video billboards – Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner

Blade Runner set the bar for futuristic cityscapes: shadowed by skyscrapers, overseen by huge, bright, animated advertisements. Compare and contrast modern-day Piccadilly Circus or Times Square by night. Minus the ad blimps and rogue replicants, we’re living in that future city.

2. Personalised product recommendations – Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report

Another film based on a Philip K. Dick story, Minority Report featured ads that scanned the retinas of passers-by and recommended them products based on things they’d bought before. The casual retinal scans are thankfully still within the bounds of science fiction, but Amazon recommends products based on shoppers’ buying history, Facebook based on members’ social behaviour, so perhaps it’s only a matter of time.

3. Brand ambassadors – William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition

In Pattern Recognition, the main character, Cayce Pollard, is at one point horrified to find out that her employer is paying cool and/or beautiful people to hang out in bars and flirt while plugging its products, without disclosing that they’re on the payroll. This is happening, and it’s even creepier than Gibson imagined: in 2011, there was controversy over companies rewarding children as young as seven for promoting their products to their friends, face to face and online.

Can you think of any I’ve missed?

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