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8 — What will the future of advertising bring?

In this sequence students will think about the future of advertising. In doing so, they will be encouraged to raise questions about the social, legal and ethical issues surrounding present day advertising. They will be presented with extracts from literature: short texts that are works of speculative (or dystopian) fiction, set in ‘the near future’ and that explore possibilities of where advertising may be headed. They will continue to explore the innovative and exciting advances in current marketing strategies and to predict what the next big steps forward in advertising and marketing might be. ACELT1619ACELT1620 

This sequence draws on the General Capabilities of Literacy, Critical and Creative Thinking, and Ethical Behaviour.

Photograph of Times Square at night with traffic and many prominent billboards

Above: Crossroads of the World; Times Square, New York City – USA, photo by Diego Torres Silvestre CC-BY-2.0

The future of advertising

Share this synopsis of the novel Ads R Us with the students. The notion of personalised ads is a key idea in this sequence.

In Claire Carmichael’s young adult novel Ads R Us, which is set some time in the future, advertising is everywhere. It becomes personalised to such a degree that even without your knowing (subliminal marketing) you are being influenced to purchase products and use services all of the time. The novel was written in 2006 and many of the ideas presented in this work of fiction have become actuality, in the sense that what may have seemed like a futuristic idea at the time has become a reality owing to advancements in technology. So where might advertising take us in the future?

Note: This novel contains some challenging language and young adult themes. It is recommended that if the novel is to be read in its entirety, students be guided in their reading (using a guided reading approach) or that the novel be read aloud to the students. Extracts and concepts from the novel fit the theme of this sequence and the unit very well.

In the novel’s dystopian universe, for example, people wear wrist bands that are scanned when they enter stores. A scan reveals a person’s name and their account details, as well as their shopping requirements for the day. Ask the students if they can see bracelet or wrist band scanning as a possibility in our lives. Do we have a version of this already?

The character Barrett goes on to experience a ‘body scan’ in the clothing store so the shop assistant then has an image of his exact body measurements, to then present him with exact clothing and sizing options. Share this scene from the movie Minority Report. What type of future marketing ideas does the character in the clip encounter? How is this similar to or different from Barrett’s experience in the novel Ads R Us?

Draw the students’ attention to body scanning machines that are already used. Many airports around the world have such devices and in 2012 there was talk that Australian airports would all be fitted with such technology. Prisons are also trialling a form of scanning machine to replace body searches. In April 2012 an Australian Target store announced its purchase of a million dollar body scanning machine. Display the article: Target offers 3D body scanner to measure customers on an interactive whiteboard for the students to read and discuss.

Activity 1: PMIs – plusses, minuses and interesting points

Ask the students to complete a PMI chart with a partner, or in a group, and to explore the plusses, minuses and interesting points of the futuristic advertising ideas presented in the text extracts and samples shared (plus any further ideas that they can draw on from books they have read or movies they have seen). The completed PMI chart can be used to formatively assess student learning for Assessment task 1.

Here are some further ideas raised in the novel Ads R Us:

Activity 2: Creative writing task

Based on the idea of body scanning technology being used in clothing stores, or by exploring one of the futuristic ideas noted in class discussion, ask the students to write a scene about a character’s encounter with a futuristic advertising technique. ACELY1725

Students are to provide sensory detail for the scene so that readers can imagine what it would be like if they too were in that situation. Ask the students to think about:

Note: This creative task will be revisited in Sequence 9, where the students can use their written extracts as part of a larger creative short story.