Media Of Futures Past

In 2010 there will be no universally-watched media entity in the US that can influence everything citizens do. No, I’m not referring to Oprah’s recent decision to end her show. I’m saying that my favorite films and other media of the 1980s got it wrong!
Throughout the Eighties and into the Nineties, films – particularly in the action genre – portrayed life 25 or so years in the future (that would be NOW) as dystopian societies where a single media outlet controlled everything. Often times, it controlled the government and military.

The All-Powerful ICS Network's Top Show: The Running Man

My favorite example is The Running Man with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Cue the Don LaFontaine deep voice-over: In a world where Arnold is accused of crime he didn’t commit, he must play a deadly game live on the world’s most popular TV game show hosted by the evil and scene-stealing Killian (Richard Dawson). It’s a great view of an oppressed society obsessed with media. We see criminals executed live on TV for big ratings and gems like “court-appointed publicity agents”. I love that last part!

These films were supposed to take place in the future but sure still looked like the 80s as far as synthesizer music, clothes, and smoking habits.


Apple's 1984 Superbowl Ad
Arnold Watches The Only News in Total Recall
The State-Run Media Is Called "The Mouth" In the 1982 Comics and 2005 Film V For Vendetta
The Core of T2's "Skynet" Which Gained Sentience Shortly After Going Online
Jonathan Pryce As A Media Mogul Bond Villian In Tomorrow Never Dies








Fast forward to the present or our past’s future, and we have moved in the opposite direction! Media today has been completely fragmented and splintered into millions of TV channels, online sites, blogs, audio programs, and more. Today’s citizen journalist has the same opportunity to reach an audience as “Killian” did in The Running Man. Better yet, that citizen does more than just broadcast to an audience; he can actually engage with the consumer.

Let’s not be too hard on the screen writers of the 70s and 80s; the Cold War and the rise of certain media outlets along with the distrust of big government would be hard themes not to tackle. We would not have paid to see a movie about the future with someone updating their Facebook page.

The Latest Cheap Trick in Media Marketing

I love the fact that Cheap Trick’s latest album, The Latest, is going to be available not only via download, CD, and Vinyl, but also on 8 Track.
Downloads are available now via iTunes and Amazon. For those of us who prefer to actually have a hard copy with artwork, we’ll have to wait until July 21 for the CD at major retailers. And for some of us who like to argue that high-grade vinyl records offer better quality sound than CDs (yeah, I’m one of those guys), LPs will also be out later this month.
But 8 Track?
It’s brilliant! What better way to grab media attention for the world’s greatest power pop band than to announce a new 8 Track release! As of today, Tuesday July 7, there are already hundreds of stories online and in print (source: MediaQ monitoring) and hundreds of tweets on Twitter. How many journalists, bloggers, and Twits would be writing about a new Cheap Trick album without the 8 Track gimmick?

Click on 8 Track to hear stream of songs from "The Latest"
Click on 8 Track to hear stream of songs from "The Latest"

This isn’t about 8 Track tapes, which no one is really going to buy other than as a conversation piece or collector’s item. This is about knowing your target audience and executing ideas that cut through the noise. Cheap Trick does retro-cool right and always has. The 8 Track gimmick should get even more attention for what is actually a great album. I have heard several tracks (via 2009 technology, not 1977 technology) and am pleased to report that the boys from Rockford are still on top of the world. Since departing the major labels (Epic in the 80s and Warner Brothers in the 90s), the band has taken back their creative control and has spent the past 10 years writing brilliant rock and pop songs.
Cheap Trick proves a point frequently discussed on this blog. Buzz is not established by which media channels or tools you use to get a message out. In this case, an interesting story is getting attention, as opposed to  bad content that is just being pushed via social media or traditional channels.
As a side note, let me take just a minute to discuss the retro tech mentioned above. For those of you too young to have really used 8 Tracks, let me clue you in. They were horrible. While the wide tape may have given us the idea that it was higher quality than a cassette, the truth was that the wide tape was actually divided up into 4 programs with 2 channels (left, right) for each (thus, 8 tracks). The programs ran simultaneously on the same length of tape. Frequently a song would be split into 2 programs. You would hear a fade out, then “Ka-chung” as the tape player automatically switched programs, and the second half of the song would fade in. Perhaps this 8 Track stunt will also remind us how fortunate we are to now live in an era of iPods.