Marketing gurus and CMOs are hiding in ‘the future’ because the present is ‘a dangerous place to be’

The great thing about talking about the future is that you don't have to know anything, writes Bob Hoffman. You just make shit up and nobody can refute it. And when the future comes, who's going to remember the baloney you predicted 10 years ago?

When I’m shooting my mouth off at some conference, the question I get most frequently is this: “What’s the future of advertising?” I have no fucking idea what’s going to happen 10 minutes from now. How the hell am I supposed to know what’s going to happen ‘in the future’, whenever the hell that is? For all I know, someday someone might click on a banner ad. Who knows?

But conference goers and press reporters can’t help asking that question. They’ve been trained to do this by marketing yappers. You see, marketing gurus are usually so confused by all the horseshit generated by their industry that they can’t even figure out what’s happening now. So they’ve learned to hide in the future.

The great thing about talking about the future is that you don’t have to know anything. You just make shit up and nobody can refute it. And when the future comes, who’s going to remember the baloney you predicted 10 years ago? Meanwhile, you make a lot of money and get a lot of press with impressive-sounding horseshit.

This strategy also works great for CMOs…

BOSS: Why is business so shitty?

CMO: Well, we’re preparing for the future…

Sadly, when the future shows up 18 months later and business is still shitty the CMO gets thrown out on his ass and is replaced by some other nitwit who thinks he knows what the future looks like. The present, on the other hand, is a dangerous place. It’s a place with actual facts. There’s accountability. When you say something about the present, there’s a way to check on it. So if you’re a buffoon with a Powerpoint and a bag full of clichés stay away from the present. Nothing to see here. Head for the future – it’s your happy place.

One of my personal policies when I do talks is to never talk about the future. The present is bad enough. The only time I do so is to ridicule predictions made by marketing geniuses. Always good for a few laughs. I try only to speak about what’s currently happening. Not horseshit about stuff that may or may not happen in 10 years. A good deal of what I talk about is how different the present is from the once certain predictions of marketing futurists.


I go to a lot of conferences (hey, it’s a living) and I have to listen to a lot of speakers. It’s pretty easy to know pretty quickly who the bullshit artists are. They’re the ones who are telling us what the future is going to be like and warning us that we’d better be ready for it or we’ll be left behind. And being ready for it usually includes buying into some baloney they’re selling.

The futurists know nothing that you don’t know. Well, I’m wrong. They know one thing – they know how to turn bullshit into a speaking fee. And they always have an escape valve. When you point out that a prediction of theirs was 100 per cent dead-ass wrong, they give you this: “Just wait, you’ll see.”

In other words, they kick the can further into the future. It’s a no-lose proposition. So I have some predictions to make about the future:

  • Social media will replace advertising
  • The 30-second spot is dead
  • Google glasses will be everywhere
  • TV will die
  • QR codes will change advertising
  • Interactive TV will be huge

Just wait, you’ll see.

Bob Hoffman has been the CEO of two independent agencies and is the author of the Ad Contrarian blog, where this article first appeared


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