Surfing around, I just came upon AT&T’s “You Will” advertising campaign from the early 1990s. The ads are well-produced and, almost fifteen years after they aired, I still remember seeing them for the first time.
I’m amazed by how accurate a vision of today’s life they present. Except for using a public video phone–something I suspect will never exist in more than a few niche markets–I’ve done everything described in the ads and I’d suspect that the overwhelming majority of Americans have too. AT&T got the near future almost perfect. In fact, I think the company didn’t go far enough in predicting how many new technologies we would get: there’s no mention of pervasive, cheap mobile phone or Internet shopping.
In what they do predict, however, the ads really missed only one thing: AT&T’s company’s own survival. AT&T, so accurate about what the future would hold for consumers, couldn’t manage to survive as an independent company. SBC (which changed its name to AT&T) ended up with AT&T’s telephone and Internet assets while Comcast bought out its cable systems.
Market economies create innovations. Companies come and go.