This post is about the future, but it begins in the not-too-distant past.
For me, it began 50 years ago when I first began reading Marshall McLuhan as a Junior High student in the Bronx. It picks up a decade later, when I started covering media as a reporter for Adweek in the early 1980s and got to meet and write about the views of an early generation of ad industry futurists – Doyle Dane Bernbach’s Jay James, J. Walter Thompson’s Ron Katz, as well as a follow-on generation of pioneering digital ad executives including McCann-Erickson’s Ira Carlin, Ogilvy & Mather’s Martin Nisenholtz and Publicis’ Rishad Tobaccowala – people who didn’t just see the future, but tried to shape it by influencing how others could see it too.
It resumed a few weeks ago, when I had lunch with UpperRight Co-Founder Alan Schulman, a media visionary in his own right, who asked me what might have seemed like a simple question not too long ago, but really got me scratching my head in early 2023, so I’m hoping this column will help me crowdsource it.
“Who are the industry’s new futurists I should be following?,” Schulman asked me.
After flummoxing through some obligatory current high-profile names – Tobaccowala, of course, Scott Galloway, Shelly Palmer, and others – I told Schulman I would write a column asking readers to nominate their own, and ideally, update the list periodically over time.
The conversation was prompted by an “RTBlog” I published just before meeting with Shulman. In it, I called out Tobaccowala for a prediction he made five years ago that current data indicates he missed the mark on. Schulman, like others, thought the column was an unfair knock on Tobaccowala’s ability to predict the future, and I apologize if it came out that way to others.
I didn’t mean it that way, because Tobaccowala is one of the visionaries I have admired most over the year’s I’ve covered the business, it’s just rare that any of them have every made such an explicit prediction near enough that I could bookmark it in my Google calendar and check back a few years later.
My main point in that column is how hard it is being a futurist – in anything, much less an industry as fluid and rapidly changing as advertising and media. To be one of our industry’s futurists, you don’t just need to have vision, you also have to be brave and have some thick skin when you inevitably take some heat.
To jumpstart an industry futurists list, I did a couple of things. First I cobbled together my own from four decades of covering them. It’s really just my list, with a few inclusions from friends and sources I reached out to in the past couple of weeks. Some of the names on my list are dated, and a few are no longer even with us, but they are people who inspired me to think differently about the industry I was covering. And most importantly, to think about it in a unique way: That I wasn’t covering an industry, so much as an industrial revolution. And that unlike any industrial revolution before it, media’s would never end, but would only accelerate as new technologies and ways of communicating and interacting with each other evolved. It’s Moore’s Law on steroids.
As part of this project, I plan to come back and revisit the milestones and epiphanies I learned from specific futurists on my list – everyone from McLuhan to Tobaccowala to Palmer to (former boss) Jack Myers – as well as some whose names you probably never knew, but who are an important part of the historical DNA that shaped ad-supported media’s past, present and at least some of its next few acts.
Things like sitting the basement of Ogilvy & Mather’s downtown annex as Martin Nisenholtz hacked some interactive “kiosks” that would evolve into what we now think of as “digital media.”
Or the time I spent with former Advertising Research Foundation research chief Gabe Samuels and a team of MIT Media Lab, ad agency and big media futurists mapping how “digital” would transform how people would experience advertising and media over time.
Or the years I spent covering various generations of IPG Mediabrands’ Media Lab – from Lori Schwartz through Brian Monahan to the current team led by Chad Stoller and Adam Simon.
What follows is Joe Mandese’s 100 most influential media futurists list – more or less, but not necessarily – ranked in some kind of order.
Then – and only because UpperRight’s Schulman told me he had sone something similar – I asked ChatGPT to compile a couple of lists of advertising/media industry futurists.
These are just prompts to get you thinking about your own.I’ll take nominations here in the comments field of this column, or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As a bonus, the reader who provides me with the most interesting or inspired nomination will win a piece of futuristic media memorabilia I’ve been holding onto fo several decades: a factory-sealed, mint edition copy of Playboy magazine’s first-ever CD-Rom datebook edition (circa 1993, but the packaging says it "will last well beyond the year 3000 -- unlike paper planners this one starts when you want it to and keeps going forever.").
I know some of you are probably asking, “What’s a CD-Rom,” or even, “What’s a Playboy magazine,” but that’s okay, you can enter too.
Joe Mandese's Current Futurists 100 List:
Esther Dyson Isaac Asimov Neil Postman Philip K. Dick Ted Turner Steve Jobs Bill Joy Ira Carlin Arthur C. Clarke Bob Pittman Mark Cuban Jeff Bezos Ray Kurzweil Jay
James Shelly Palmer Roger Ailes Tony Pace Dave Morgan Brian Lesser Tim Armstrong Tom Goodwin Scott
Galloway Steve Case Clay Felker David Ogilvy Martin
Sorrell Brian Monahan Marc Pritchard Shoshana Zuboff Bob Garfield Carl
Marci Erwin Ephron J. Walker Smith Josh Lovison John Battelle Joe Marchese Lori Schwartz Alex
Bogusky Sarah Fay Gabe Samuels Ed Dittus Peter Sealey Renny
Gleeson William Gibson John Durham Sparks
& Honey Ted McConnell Jason Calacanis Henry Blodgett Barry Fischer Delphine Fabre-Hernoux Krystal Olivieri Linda Yaccarino Hagen Wenzek Mitch
Oscar Mike Donahue David Verklin Phil
Knight Jack Myers Ken Fadner Seth Godin Barry Lowenthal Brian Wieser John Nardone Mary
Meeker Don Epperson PQ Media Faith
Popcorn Max Kalehoff Andrew Susman Chad
Stoller Mike Bloxham Bill Harvey Don
Peppers Paul Donato Nick
Brien Matt Seiler Arielle
Garcia Dave Meeker Geoff Ramsey Joe
Jaffe David Kenny Michael Wolf Chris
Anderson, Wired, The Long Tail Chris Anderson, TED Talks Cindy Gallop Jason Goldberg Elon Musk
Chat GPT's first query:
Joe Mandese: Can you compile a list of futurists in the advertising industry?
Chat GPT: Certainly! Here are some notable futurists in the advertising industry:
Faris Yakob: Faris Yakob is the co-founder of creative consultancy Genius Steals, and has been named one of the 50 most creative people in the world by Advertising Age. He is known for his work in the fields of digital marketing and new media, and has spoken at numerous industry events and conferences.
Cindy Gallop: Cindy Gallop is a former advertising executive and founder of MakeLoveNotPorn, a platform that promotes healthy sexuality and relationships. She is a frequent speaker on topics related to gender equality and diversity in the advertising industry.
Neil Perkin: Neil Perkin is the founder of Only Dead Fish, a digital and media consultancy, and is known for his work in the areas of digital strategy and transformation. He has authored several books on digital marketing and innovation, and is a regular speaker at industry events.
Danah Boyd: Danah Boyd is a principal researcher at Microsoft Research, and is known for her work on social media and youth culture. She has spoken at numerous industry events and conferences, and has written several books on the impact of technology on society.
Jules Ehrhardt: Jules Ehrhardt is the founder of creative agency FKTRY, and is known for his work in the fields of branding and digital marketing. He has been named one of the 30 most creative people in advertising by Business Insider, and has spoken at numerous industry events and conferences.
Rohit Bhargava: Rohit Bhargava is the founder of the Non-Obvious Company, and is known for his work in the areas of marketing and trend forecasting. He has authored several books on marketing and innovation, and is a frequent speaker at industry events and conferences.
Douglas Rushkoff: Douglas Rushkoff is a media theorist and author, and is known for his work on the impact of digital technology on society. He has spoken at numerous industry events and conferences, and has written several books on topics related to technology and culture.
These are just a few examples of futurists in the advertising industry. There are many more individuals and organizations working to shape the future of advertising and marketing, and their insights and perspectives are sure to be valuable in the years to come.
Mandese: Can you compile a list of futurists who specifically predict the future of media in the ad industry?
Chat GPT: Certainly! Here are some notable futurists who specifically focus on predicting the future of media in the ad industry:
Shelly Palmer: Shelly Palmer is a media and technology expert and the CEO of The Palmer Group. He is known for his work in media technology, emerging media, and the future of advertising. He is a frequent speaker at industry events and has authored several books on these topics.
Scott Galloway: Scott Galloway is a professor at NYU Stern School of Business and a co-founder of L2, a research firm that focuses on digital innovation. He is known for his work in digital strategy and branding, and is a frequent speaker on the future of media in the advertising industry.
David Berkowitz: David Berkowitz is the founder of the Serial Marketer consultancy and is known for his work in digital marketing and media. He has written extensively on the future of advertising and is a frequent speaker at industry events.
Bob Garfield: Bob Garfield is a media critic and author, and is known for his work in media and advertising. He has written several books on the future of advertising and has spoken at numerous industry events and conferences.
Brian Solis: Brian Solis is a digital analyst, author, and keynote speaker, and is known for his work in digital marketing and media. He has written several books on these topics, including "What's the Future of Business?" and is a frequent speaker at industry events.
Douglas Rushkoff: Douglas Rushkoff is a media theorist and author, and is known for his work on the impact of digital technology on society. He has written extensively on the future of media and advertising, and is a frequent speaker at industry events and conferences.
These are just a few examples of futurists who focus specifically on predicting the future of media in the ad industry. Their insights and perspectives can provide valuable guidance to marketers and advertisers as they navigate an ever-changing media landscape.
Last follow-up from Mandese to Chat GPT:
Joe, you list Don Epperson twice - between Mary Meeker and my firm PQ Media and between Mike Bloxham and Don Peppers. Two possible replacements include yourself and/or Vincent Letang.
@Leo Kivijarv: Doh! I'd like to say Don Epperson is the futurist that's so nice, I had to name him twice, but the truth is I've got stubby fingers and bad eyes, so he only belongs on there once.
I would second your first nomination, but when I look at the IPG Mediabrands team, Vincent Letang is positioned more as an economist and near-term look at the future. And they have always had more dedicated futurists inside the Media Lab to look longer term.
But it begs the question why I have GroupM's Kate Scott-Dawkins and former GroupMer Brian Wieser on the list. It's because they both have repeatedly surfaced longer-term factors taht are influencing or likely to influence ad spending.
Since this is intended to be a living document, and for the sake of expediency, I'll add Vincent now.
Regarding your second nomination, If I wasn't good enough for a first or second cut on ChatGPT, I'm going to pass on tooting my own horn.
I'll add one of my other candidates instead.
I could split you and Patrick Quinn into separate nominations, but I think of you more as Team PQ.
The list should include Larry Allen (VP & GM of Data and Addressable Enablement at Comcast) as he has played a critical role in bringing together major players across the media and advertising in support of the transformation from linear to addressable TV advertising, orchestrating the necessary alignment across MVPDs, Programmers and Smart TV OEMs, as well as related data and technology partners.
so funny, Joe (per usual, though)
@FouAnalytics: I suppose the punchline is that you believe you belong on the list?
nope. I would absolutely NOT want to be on your list.
If you put me on the list, I would ask you to remove my name from the list.
I know virtually all of the folks on the list.
@FouAnalytics: That's hilarious, because you're already on one of my lists.
first of all, this is not a list -- it's a dumb article that you wrote (rambling) https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/374547/fou-me-twice-shame-on-me.html
and your block list is perfectly fine, so I don't have to read more articles that are just regurgitated press releases with a few words changed or added. no. thank. you.
P.S. you're on my block list too, to be doubly sure.
@FouAnalytics: I didn't think it was possible, but you managed to move up my other list. Congratulations!
good. just keep that list to yourself, so you don't embarrass yourself again.
Lester Wunderman belongs at the forefront of any list of visionaries. Lester not only had a vision, anticipating data, CRM and the internet, he created an agency with practices and capabilities to realize his vision.