6 Ways Uncanny AT&T Ads Predicted the Future in 1993

6 Ways Uncanny AT&T Ads Predicted the Future in 1993
Screenshot: Lucas Ropek/YouTube

In 1993, telecom giant AT&T launched an advertising campaign that somehow predicted quite a lot of aspects of how we work and live today. The “You Will” ad series, directed by now-famed thrill-master David Fincher, was an eerily accurate look at what life in the mid to late 2000s would look like. The ads, narrated by former Magnum P.I. star and professional mustache-haver Tom Selleck, imagined a series of scenarios involving gadgets and technology that didn’t yet exist.

“Have you ever done *insert thing we all do now*? Well, you will!” Selleck would say at the beginning of each ad. “And the company that will bring it to you? AT&T,” he added, at the end of each commercial. The campaign foretold a number of technological advances that would define the decades to come like tablets, smart TVs, remote work, smart watches, and smart home devices.

The central prediction of the ad was wrong, though. As Vox noted a couple years ago, while these ads were “remarkably accurate in predicting the cutting-edge technologies” that would soon arrive, they ultimately missed the fact that the company to “bring it to you” was not AT&T. Instead, it would be a whole bunch of startups that didn’t exist at the time, the publication noted.

That said, it’s uncanny to run down all of the things that “You Will” got right about the future.

Tablets and Smart Homes

Screenshot: Lucas Ropek/YouTubeScreenshot: Lucas Ropek/YouTube

“Have you ever kept an eye on your home while you’re not at home?” Selleck asks. We see a lady on a futuristic train with a tablet in her hand, upon which is a diagram of her house. The woman is able to turn the lights on at her house simply by punching buttons on the tablet. This prediction of our smart home future was pretty damn accurate, though it must have seemed odd to viewers in the 1990s, most of whom probably didn’t even have cell phones yet. That said, I don’t think most of us are ever going to own a massive hillside chateau of the kind featured in this commercial.

Smart TVs

Screenshot: Lucas Ropek/YouTubeScreenshot: Lucas Ropek/YouTube

“Have you ever watched the movie you wanted to the minute you wanted to?” asks Selleck. We see a gaggle of young boys dash into a living room and onto a couch, and one of the boys turns on what looks like a smart TV so the gang can watch a science fiction movie.

Mind you, in 1993, Blockbuster was considered a relatively new company and video-on-demand was still in its infancy, so the idea that you’d be able to whip up whatever movie you wanted with a click of a button must have seemed pretty crazy indeed. Now? Ehh…not so much.

Tele-learning

Screenshot: Lucas Ropek/YouTubeScreenshot: Lucas Ropek/YouTube

In one segment, the ad shows a student listening to his professor talk about jazz. However, the professor is not talking to the student in real life but (whoah!) on a screen! The ad asks if we have ever “learned special things from faraway places.” As weirdly worded as that sentence is, Selleck is clearly talking about tele-learning, which is something that the youth of America have become well acquainted with over the past few years.

Smart Watches

Screenshot: Lucas Ropek/YouTubeScreenshot: Lucas Ropek/YouTube

Selleck asks us if we’ve ever gotten a phone call on our wrist. The commercial then shows a guy in a peacoat kneeling on a rock in the middle of what looks like Yosemite National Park, while a woman asks him via his watch how his day has been. “Beautiful,” he says, smiling and gazing up at the sky.

Somehow, “You Will” knew that in a couple decades every doofus would be wearing an overly expensive smart watch that could substitute as a phone and/or a health monitor. That’s cool, though this part of the ad strikes me as odd. I mean, what was that guy supposed to be doing out there anyway? Burying a corpse? He doesn’t look dressed for camping — that’s all I’m saying…

Remote Work

Screenshot: Lucas Ropek/YouTubeScreenshot: Lucas Ropek/YouTube

In one of the ads, Selleck asks us if we’ve “ever attended a meeting” in our “bare feet.” The commercial shows a wealthy looking salt-and-pepper type of guy traipsing around a shady beach hut in what might be Cabo, while chatting it up with his co-workers via a teleconferencing call.

I’ve definitely attended a meeting in my bare feet, so they certainly got that part right. That said, it was less because I was phoning in from an island paradise and more because most teleconference calls don’t require you to wear clothing from the waist down.

Voice-Controlled Door Locks

Screenshot: Lucas Ropek/YouTubeScreenshot: Lucas Ropek/YouTube

Another segment shows a woman coming back to her dimly lit apartment building holding a bunch of flowers. It looks like she might struggle to get inside with her hands full, but all she has to do is tell her apartment “I’m home” and a voice-activated mechanism unlocks her door for her. In 2022, do we have voice-activated locks? Yes, we do. They integrate with Siri and Alexa. Are they a good idea? Eh…the jury might still be out on that one.

“You Will” Got a Few Things Wrong, Though

Screenshot: Lucas Ropek/YouTubeScreenshot: Lucas Ropek/YouTube

As prescient as “You Will” was, the ad campaign ultimately did get a few things wrong. These segments could have been rebranded as a “You Won’t” campaign.

Selleck: “Have you ever renewed your driver’s licence at a cash machine?”

  • Nope, definitely haven’t done that. Don’t foresee the DMV rolling out that feature anytime soon either! Still waiting in a lengthy line.

Selleck: “[Have you ever] tucked your baby in from a phone booth?”

  • For one thing, I don’t have a baby. For another thing, we don’t have phone booths anymore. FaceTime might count. But the answer to that one is still no.

Selleck: “Have you ever checked out of a supermarket a whole cart at a time?” The ad shows a woman putting her shopping cart through some sort of scanner, that automatically identifies every grocery item she picked out and tabulates the overall cost.

  • That actually would be really cool, but, nope, even at the self-check kiosk, we still have to scan every individual item.