Jowita Bydlowska

We Are the Future


phdworldwide, “We Are The Future” (2011)*

Fuckya is the first that that comes to mind after watching “We Are the Future,” a “promotional video to stimulate discussion within the marketing industry” made by PHD Worldwide, a global media and communications agency. The second thing that comes to mind is also a… fuckya.

The third thing that comes to mind is the last chapter of Jennifer Egan’s “A Visit from the Goon Squad,” which describes a delightful and frightening vision of the future where the world is ruled by pointers — just your regular toddlers, known as they are their finger pointing toward anything they find interesting. In the “Goon Squad” the grownups spend a lot of time worrying about how to please these smallest and shittiest of humans, also the future world’s most powerful consumers.

When I read the story I thought that its sci-fi vibe was quite flamboyant — less plausible than an accurate prediction of the future — until someone on Facebook asked if people could recommend the “best app to get her toddler.” And then watching the children of “We Are the Future” I realized that I’m so ancient I should just shut up and bury myself a hole somewhere in the ICQ graveyard and die. But before I do that I need to warn you all about the children of “We Are the Future.”

Basically, the children seem to have been instructed (by a Great Robot in the Sky) to tell the world what’s what. Speaking straight to the camera they narrow their eyes, crinkle their noses, tilt their giant heads and tell you about the type of a product they want. They want their product to be: interactive, accessible and appealing not only visually but also through sound, touch, gesture, and… intent. I think. The children say they want product to be based on sociograms (Sociograms? Really?), and to lend itself to co-creation. The product should also be full of smart content and “tailored to me.” “And me.” “Me.” “Me.” “Me,” say the children through rows of tiny, sharp yellow teeth.

Furthermore, what the children want is for the things they’ll buy — the car, the skirt, the hotel, the app — to be embedded with everything (“Everything.” “Everything.” “Everything.”): to not only have the product and experience but to have the product and experience intertwine with other products and experiences, with social media and information (or something called “double-tap on information”… Anybody?) and with a big flying fuckya unicornzzzzzz…

If one is not in the business of ads one tends to tune out this mass vomit of marketing propaganda and focuses on the children’s faces which are unselfconsciously hairy and so fresh you can almost smell the milk. Watching this, a hungry old person like me can’t help but think it would be nice to eat one of those little piglets, to pluck all the excess hair, stuff an apple in the mouth spewing all that endless derivative drivel, and roast away.

If not the urge to eat the children, one may feel slightly threatened by a few of the their messages. Because even the non-marketing crowd will recognize the cheerful aggression in announcements such as, “And then when we do buy there are normally more of us than there are of you,” and “You better get used to paying us,” and “Otherwise we’ll block you,” and “Mass blocks kill brands overnight and keep you up all night,” and some more stuff about ruling the world.

The subliminal meaning is, of course, “Obey or we will eat your brains,” and one can’t help but think of other children who talked that way and ate everybody’s brains back in the 80s.


Stephen King, Fritz Kiersch, “Children Of The Corn” (1984)

- Jowita Bydlowska

*from the PhD “debate” site:

“We Are The Future” was originally created for an industry conference and as a promotional video to stimulate discussion within the marketing industry. It aimed to made projections on what the media landscape could be like in ten years based on what we are seeing now.

It has since reached a much wider audience and created a mixed reaction which has largely been negative.

In retrospect we would have approached this very differently and accept that we got it wrong on this occasion, particularly in getting young people to voice it. We apologise to anyone who did not like it.

We believe people have the right to debate the video and its contents so will be leaving it on YouTube to allow that and we welcome comments… (posted by Mark Holden)

  • Robert M Macrae

    At AT&T we’d send out new phone advertising it as capable of doing A, B and C. Within a week we’d be getting tech calls on how kids, (ten, eleven year olds were seriously creative) do X, Y and Z. They were WAY ahead of us. The age group in this clip are leading the market now. Cell phone company tech departments scramble to keep up with the things kids learn how to do with phones weeks after they hit the market. It’s astonishing.

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Jowita Bydlowska was born in Warsaw, as in Poland. She moved to Canada as a teenager. That hurt. She got over it eventually and now she likes it in Canada. She lives in Toronto with her little family in a little house. She's the author of "Drunk Mom," a memoir, published by Doubleday Canada and HarperCollins Australia. She’s written a couple novels that she hopes will also be published at some future date. For fun she takes weird pictures, usually of herself, because she and herself are on the same page most of the time so it's just easier that way. More from Jowita Bydlowska here.