Looking to the future in 1975: JWTrends
When working on J. Walter Thompson: Advertising America, released earlier this year by Adam Matthew Digital, I was struck by one of the many company newsletters which feature in the archive, and not only because of its jauntily diagonal title.
Produced weekly by the Information Center of J. Walter Thompsonâs Chicago office, JWTrends offered advertisers insights into the latest technological, social and economic news and research. Initially presented as a newsletter for JWTâs Chicago office alone upon its launch in 1974, by early 1975 this weekly, single-page newsletter could boast that it was a âdigest of newsâŠ of interest to those in the advertising and marketing communityâ, suggesting a wider circulation than just the staff of one Thompson office. JWTrends was not simply a vehicle for sharing news which the companyâs staff might find useful; rather, it was an advertisement for the canny ability of JWT researchers to realise which developments might impact the industry in the coming weeks, months, years or decades. These bulletins represent conscious attempts to understand what the future might look like, and an insight into what particularly interested Thompsonâs researchers. Projections of how the economy might fare in coming months sat check-by-jowl with some much more profound suggestions and predictions.
The issue of 20 January 1975, for example, reported that in the near future, newspapers were to become âmore compact [and] more costlyâ and that American tastes in drinking had âshifted appreciably' â albeit with the proviso that âtrends, ideas and products donât always materialiseâ. A reminder, then, that not every startling prediction featured in the pages of JWTrends might not come true. Indeed, the concept of clothing cut by lasers, fused together rather than stitched, and tried on in a fitting room featuring a âheliograph-type mirrorâ is not quite with us in 2018 â although the use of âcomputerised debitâ most certainly is.
Of particular interest, though, is the very first article of the 1975 series, which informed readers that âthe current âwave of the futureââ, the microcomputer, could have a major âimpact on societyâ, given its ability to âcommunicate with telecommunications devicesâŠ other microcomputers, or other large computersâ.
Exactly what Iâm doing to share these predictions today - but perhaps a surprising development to some mere decades ago.