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Are Science Fiction Writers The Future Of Advertising?

by Bryan Thomas Schmidt 

As made popular by actor Jon Hamm on AMC’S Mad Men, Don Draper is the adman people actually admire. According to Science Fiction author David Brin, in an interview with Rick Leibling on Digiday, science fiction writers may be some of the best candidates for the job in the near future. Having written content for a variety of platforms and channels, Brin suggests that “in times of very rapid change, a good source of ideas can be the literary genre that’s all about change and its effects on human behavior.”

Called the “fiction of ideas” by fans and authors who immerse themselves in it, science fiction often posits ideas which come to hit very close to home decades or even months after publication.  This is particularly true of novels set in the near future, with worlds that seem contemporary, and characters only a shade or two away from people we know. But more than that, Leibling suggests, the writers themselves are coming closer and closer to doing what admen themselves do.

Leibling writes: “The role of the brand steward has always been to tell stories — to make the customer believe a lie, as Seth Godin famously wrote in his “All Marketers are Liars.” But the method of the storytelling has changed, and it more closely resembles the intricate plots and complex narratives so masterfully crafted by the likes of Brin, Gibson, Murakami and Stephenson.”

The explosion of platforms we’re seeing demands a new skill set, Leibling suggests, and writes: “Steven Johnson, in Everything Good is Bad for You, explains how storytelling on shows such as Lost or The Sopranos has risen to meet the needs of consumers who have come to expect, and demand, these densely packed narratives filled with a host of characters and interwoven subplots.”

Leibling believes the marketing industry will have no choice but to mimic the sophistication of such storytelling if they want to engage modern consumers and survive.

Leibling is not alone in this belief. The computer hardware company Intel, from a desire to better understand how its products might be used and benefit future customers, created the Tomorrow Project, enlisting the help of scientists, and science-fiction writers, to come up with plausible scenarios for the future.

Leibling writes: “As elements such as video content and social media interaction continue to play a larger role in consumer-facing efforts by brands, the opportunities for people who can create characters and plots, who understand pacing and dramatic tension, will grow and there will be a talent war for these people among agencies. Now is the time to start finding these future advertising stars.”

For Leibling’s full post, see:

For information on Intel’s Tomorrow Project, see:

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s science fiction, fantasy and humor books, short stories and articles. A frequent contributor to blogs like SFSignalAdventures In SF PublishingGrasping For The Wind and To Be Read, he also hosts Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat under the hashtag #sffwrtcht on Twitter and blogs about writing and creativity on his own blog at Connect With Bryan On Google+

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