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1/1/99 - Predictable Predictions

Happy New Year!

We're ringing in 1999 with a redesigned website. Thanks to your feedback, we've made some changes that'll help the Commando site communicate better than ever.

Speaking of change, that's what the New Year is all about, isn't it? The moment the crowd clears out of Times Square marks the unofficial start of the Season of New Beginnings. With Slim- Fast, Bally Total Fitness or Nicoderm Cq ads offering to help us keep our resolutions--at least until Super Bowl Sunday.

So how will the advertising business change? It's easy to predict that there'll be more mergers and acquisitions. But will they produce better, more effective advertising? I don't think so. (For a historical perspective, check out Advolution.)

Fact is, it's easier to predict the things that won't change (but should):

-There'll be some new computer technique everyone will jump on like the "frozen moment" gimmick introduced by The Gap. Whatever this new FX fad is (perhaps "virtual sets" inspired by the new Star Wars Episode 1 movie) it'll basically be a substitute for a solid, brand-building concept.

- Music will be licensed to campaigns for different product categories airing simultaneously, negating their brand equity value to clients (like the recent use of the song "I Believe I Can Fly" by both Mobil and MCI.)

- More classic campaigns that have silently maintained a share of the collective consciousness for decades will be dusted off to revitalize brands (get ready for 7Up's relaunch as the "Uncola.")

- Arguments against innovative executions will continue, reinforced by a "Dick" backlash (ouch) triggered by the much maligned Miller Lite campaign.

- Mini-advances will be made in advertising's "parallel social universe" that's about 30 years behind the programming and publications it appears in. I guess 1998's big step forward was airing a Hallmark spot featuring a divorced couple to an American TV audience with a 50% divorce rate.

- Vignettes with vague strategies will remain a popular all-purpose execution. Like the :60 that ran through December featuring scenes of holiday cheer set to a heartwarming track. If the goal here was to keep viewers in suspense about the sponsor's identity, I guess it worked. I kept expecting the music to segue into the Maxwell House theme, but it didn't. Turned out Allstate's logo did a quick fade up and out at the end. Allstate? Was there an avalanche in this thing that I missed?

- There'll be more "grab bag" campaigns in which a bunch of unrelated spots are presented as a "campaign" solely because they all share the same client logo at the close. It's all good, baby.

- Of course, you can count on the traditional ad agency clichés and inefficiencies portrayed in our Us & Them and Dog & Pony Show sections to still be lingering like bad habits. Wouldn't it be nice if some pharmaceutical company could come up with a cure in time for the new millennium?