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AT&T accurately predicted the future in 1993. What can we expect now, 25 years later?

The company is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its “You Will” campaign and by thinking once again about what the future might hold.

AT&T accurately predicted the future in 1993. What can we expect now, 25 years later?

Back in 1993, Tom Selleck predicted our future. Okay, he narrated a prediction of it.

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AT&T’s “You Will” campaign was the first time we caught a glimpse of what’s become our reality 25 years later. Tablets, smart watches, GPS, on-demand entertainment, and more were all in there, before many of us even had an internet connection at home.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the campaign, AT&T made a short film on the making of “You Will,” talking to the marketers, director David Fincher, and others about how they were able to so accurately predict so much of the technology that’s commonplace today in 2018. Then-creative director Nick Scordato, from agency N.W. Ayer & Partners, says they didn’t have to go far: New Jersey, home to Bell Labs.

The 11-minute film isn’t all nostalgia. It also features AT&T Labs president and CTO Andre Fuetsch sitting around a table with a new collection of futurists to talk about what the next quarter century might look like. The predictions include using augmented reality to put all the information we need right in front of our eyes so we’re no longer looking at screens; architecture, roads, and other infrastructure that is full of sensors that can make our cities, homes, and work spaces more efficient and sustainable; living AI assistants, and much more.

AT&T Communications chief brand officer Fiona Carter says “You Will” captivated people’s imaginations because it showed us a future that seemed inconceivable in a pre-digital, pre-internet world. “This campaign showcased what would matter in people’s lives, the inventions necessary to make those things happen, and how AT&T would help bring those to fruition through the work of our Bell Labs team and their more than 115-year legacy,” she says.

Today, Carter says the AT&T Labs and AT&T Foundry teams carry on that legacy, and that the company hoped the campaign’s 25th anniversary would showcase some of the thinking going on within AT&T right now. “We wanted to combine insights from these AT&T experts with a group of futurists and thought leaders from entertainment, media, the arts, and academia who could explore our future,” says Carter. “How and where will we watch a movie? Will AI allow a relative from the past to teach my daughter how to play baseball? Will 5G and edge computing make the internet as invisible but as vital as the air around us? Will I still ‘go to the store’?”

All questions to be answered later. But one AT&T prediction we’ll make, considering the company’s own ongoing evolution? We’ll soon be seeing ads on HBO.

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About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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