A media future by Kevin Kelly… and James

One of the most exciting things about being invited to speak at Gulltaggen was that the following day, Kevin Kelly was speaking.  He’s senior maverick at Wired magazine, which he co-founded in 1993.  I’ve been a fan of his work for a good few years, especially the 1,000 fans idea for a future model for music artists.  His blog, The Technium, is a constant source of inspiration to a lot of the planning & strategy community I know.

Anyway, not only did I get to hear his talk, but on the last morning Helen, James and myself enjoyed a lovely breakfast with him in the hotel too.  



I’m now thinking this meeting has affected James more than we might have thought at first… because everything I see in the way he’s using technology and media is reminiscent of something in the talk.

For instance, Kevin described the direction screen technology is moving; the intuitive nature of touch-screen devices means we will begin to expect everything to have that function built in; it’s such a natural way to control technology, why WOULDN’T something be designed to take advantage of it?  

That expectation we will develop will drive a future where everything will be a screen, a surface to interact with that recognises you.  And eventually, we won’t carry devices that are screens… we’ll be using whatever object is to hand that has a screen as part of it.

Which is a big thought to get your head around.

But then, the day after we get home, James walked over to the TV and tried to control the ball in the FA Cup semi-final in the same way that he does in Flick Kick football on the iPhone (where a simple finger movement directs the ball where you want it to be)…



It’s made me think a lot about the medium-long-term relationship between screens and our industry.  Another key point from the talk was that “wherever attention flows, money follows, and attention is flowing towards screens“.  But no-one said that this is traditional advertising money.

If we presume we’re heading for a future where the once-passive viewer can change things on the screen with a wave, a shout, a raised eyebrow or a subtle smile (“screens that read us as we read them” as Kevin put it), then we can start to piece together a timeline for how quckly things might change.

Firstly, it will be a wonderful thing to experience for my generation and older.  A novelty at first, and something we learn to add in to our media world.  But it will be expected by James and his generation.  Why wouldn’t a screen act like that?  

Think back to the way that in the early eighties, it was ‘the kids who showed dad how to set the video’.  In families, it was the younger generation who changed the way the whole house consumed media.  By the end of the decade, the film industry had shifted to a new, very profitable model of selling films to people all over again after release.

Once again, the technology will be in the hands of children, and it will shape the way the whole family, and the bulk of society interacts with that big screen in the corner.  

Given the speed with which technology is advancing, it’s arguable that change will come about faster too.  

But I feel that it’ll still take time for the younger generation to change the older generations habits.

So conservatively, let’s say that in seven years time the “television” as we know it will be a fundamentally different beast for the vast majority of households.  Wholly particpative, interactive, responsive.

Secondly, that brings us to the big advertising question; what makes us even think people will tolerate advertising in the middle of a participative experience they control?  Look at gaming now; how many ad breaks crop up in the middle of XBox games?  Do you pause between levels on your iphone game for a 30 second ‘word from our sponsors’..?


We (agencies, clients, media owners) have got seven short years in which to understand, practice and build new models of marketing before there aren’t any “television advertising spots” to buy as a last resort.  

Every day, the interruption model of advertising lumbers towards extinction, and every day you fail to prepare for it is a day wasted.  

Every day, we should ask ourselves this; what’s the seven year plan?

Anyway, it was a delight to meet Kevin Kelly, who’s not only a genius, but a very lovely guy too.  

They say you should never meet your heroes.  They’re wrong.  They should have picked better heroes.

more Gulltaggen-inspired posts to follow…