I once overheard an American mocking the British weather forecast: "Basically it's always 'rainy with sunny intervals', except when it's 'sunny with a chance of rain'."
Weather forecasts have become more accurate. Even in Britain. Although the public still loves to complain when they get it wrong.
We also love nothing more than a failed prediction. Famously, there's Michael Fish (pictured, above), who, a few hours before the Great Storm of 1987 broke, said during a forecast: "Earlier on today, apparently, a woman rang the BBC and said she heard there was a hurricane on the way. Well, if you're watching, don't worry, there isn't!". The subsequent storm was the worst to hit south-east England for three centuries.
The "unsinkable Titanic". The forecast from Mary Somerville that "Television won't last. It's just a flash in the pan". "Rock 'n' roll will be gone by June" (Variety, 1955). And, of course, Decca Records on refusing to sign The Beatles: "Guitar music is on the way out."
There are media predictions each year. How often do we check in on their accuracy? In clearing the clutter from a bookcase, I came across a book of predictions about TV published in 2004.
Mark Howe – now managing director, EMEA agencies, at Google – created the book for the long-gone TV sales house Ids. In his introduction, Howe wrote: "One common thread running through is that our business has seen an 'evolutionary change'… yet conspicuous by their absence are the accompanying changes to our working practices which we seem unwilling or unable to tackle… risk aversion and a desire to keep the status quo." Tough words, yet there are still areas of our industry that are characterised by this, and they are not the areas that are thriving.
Paddy Barwise rightly pointed out that "interactive digital TV is not the internet on your TV". Mandy Pooler wrote: "Media agencies are the ones with cash to invest in a creative product." In 2004, I wrote that "there is no longer a line between media and creativity" and "in the future a team will optimise airtime and space according to streams of data… and TV buyers will continue to spend summer on the golf course and have an annual punch-up at Christmas". Call me Mystic Meg.
What's up for 2020?
MediaCom's 2020 media predictions are here. I clearly see that there's a movement strategically from the binary, either/or thinking that plagued 2019 in all kinds of ways to seeing the bigger picture, considering all of the communications systems' effects and how they together contribute to brand growth.
And I predict that diversity and inclusion will continue to gain momentum and they will be done with meaning rather than being just a tick-box exercise. The best companies will start to reap the benefits – the pot of gold at the end of the diversity rainbow. Companies that don't really mean it, though, the ones where it isn't a cultural imperative but just an HR endeavour – they'll struggle to recruit and retain key talent.
Diversity of thinking is as crucial in this as heritage, race, religion, sexual preferences or disability. Unless everyone in the business has a real sense of belonging and a sense that they are responsible for the culture, there won't be progress.
For a sunny forecast for 2020, real change is needed and new ideas must gain traction, as Howe stated back in 2004.
Sue Unerman is chief transformation officer at MediaCom
Picture: Getty Images