Wednesday, Jan. 21, 1970: Ad man looks into future

Posted on January 19th, 2006 – 11:40 PM
By Ben Welter

A 1970s marketing executive peers into his crystal ball in this Minneapolis Star business story and sees a future where retailers use computers to keep track of our buying habits, income, wealth and style. A future where employers deposit paychecks automatically and consumers eschew cash in favor of plastic. A future where newspapers are delivered electronically, with advertising tuned to a reader’s interests. Regrettably, he didn’t mention anything about spam, popup ads or identity theft.

Computer called boon
to selling efficiency

The computer soon will be the great personalizer in the American way of life, a New York marketing expert believes.

Lawrence G. Chait, in Minneapolis recently to address the local Direct Mail Club, outlined how the electronic age will facilitate more efficiency in sales and marketing of products. It also will do your banking and pay your bills in what Chait is certain will become a cashless society.

Already marketing managers are breaking down potential customers according to demographic contour. Where you live reveals preferences, wealth, style.

Soon computers will be programmed with psychographic information, i.e., what past purchases indicate about your motivations and emotions.

Likely buyers

Such information allows a firm to select only those persons most likely to buy its goods and services and diminishes the need for blanket mailings and advertisements in mass media, Chait said.

“If you’ve purchased seeds and other gardening items from a diverse firm, such as Sears, then when they have a sale on garden tools you will hear about it, since the computer indicates you are a green thumb and have the funds to support the hobby,” he said.

Mass production of TV units which can deliver a facsimile newspaper to a household will allow pinpoint placement of future ads, Chait forecast. The marketing firm which bears his name is working on that assumption.

Special ads

If you fit into a certain income bracket and have indicated a preference for fur, for instance, the television advertiser of the future could put an ad for a mink sale at the end of your daily news printout.

“We’re still in a very primitive stage on this, though,” Chait said.

Rapid advancements are being made now in another application of the computer to modern life, according to Chait, and that is in banking.

He envisions the day in the 1970s when your company will send your paycheck directly to a bank, where a computer keeps track of your account.

Purchases you make will be instantaneously debited by the computer. You won’t carry cash, just a charge card.

Such a system would facilitate greater leisure time and ease to life, Chait maintained. “The only imponderable is how young people will react.”

Minnesota’s own Control Data Corp. was building powerful cabinet-size computers like this back in 1970. The typewriter at left was kept handy just in case. (mnhs.org photo)

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