Leela: Didn't you have ads in the 20th century?
: Well, sure, but not in our dreams. Only on TV and radio. And in magazines and movies and at ball games and on buses and milk cartons and T-shirts and written in the sky. But not in our dreams!
Something of a stock dystopia
recently especially in cyberpunk
, a popular depiction of a future where consumerism has gone mad shows a world where it is impossible to do anything - even eat, sleep or go to the bathroom - without being told by a chirpy computer telescreen that Soylent Soy
, Brand X
pillows are 20% More Awesome
than your current one and unless you buy the Flushomatic 10000, there's a good chance you'll accidentally kill yourself
The adverts can take the form of Blipverts
, Sex Sells
, Enforced Plugs
, The Man Is Sticking It To The Man
, Subliminal Advertising
, Trope Co. Trope of the Week
, May Contain Evil
and the Ridiculously Loud Commercial
. Often leads in-universe Repeating Ad
, when the barrage of advertising overwhelms the population.
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- Gorsky and Butch did it as a one-shot gag in a Star Trek parody - one of the crewmen comes from a race of Board, who can assimilate any surface into advertising space. Cut to the captain staring at his red and black fleet uniform now turned into Marlboro logo.
- In Transmetropolitan, there are advertisements in your dreams. Not everyone's dreams, though, just people unfortunate enough to be watching TV when an advertisement bomb gets deployed on the audience and not quick or alert enough to shield themselves.
- The Ur Example might be H.G. Wells's The Sleeper Awakes, written between 1898 and 1910, where the London of the 2100s is covered in advertising hoardings. Especially the churches.
- This trope is a major focus of the Frederik Pohl classic humorous novels The Space Merchants, The Merchants' War and The Merchants of Venus. The first, in particular, featured advertisers competing to come up with new—and usually horrific—ways to promote their clients' goods.
- Fritz Leiber's The Last Letter is this, where citizens are confronted with billboards, radio jingles, mail, and even phone calls which feature nothing but advertisements.
- Ray Bradbury's The Murderer features a man futilely destroying the myriad loudspeakers, radios, TVs, etc., which endlessly broadcast commercials at the populace.
- In Fahrenheit 451, Montag tries to read on the subway, but he's constantly distracted by a jingle for Denham's Dentifrice. He eventually screams at the radio to shut up, shocking the rest of the passengers who were singing along.
- Feed is set in a world where people can have tiny computers implanted in their heads. Advertisments are then pumped directly into their brain.
- Robert A. Heinlein's Podkayne of Mars. While on Venus people are constantly barraged by ads. Podkayne and Gertie even have a hologram of a devil appear inside their taxi and try to get them to buy an addictive drink called Hi-Ho. The company that makes it pays the taxi company to force the ads on their captive customers.
- In the Lensman verse, among most sentient species it's considered slightly shameful (akin to losing a video game on Super Easy mode) to notice an advertisement. At one point Virgil Samms is in a "taxi" with a member of an alien race that has no eyes and relies instead on a sense that detects mass directly somehow. The driver is obligingly sharing this sense of perception with Samms (through Samms' Lens, which gives him a kind of telepathy), when Samms notices that there's a little nondescript mound by the side of the road that's opaque to this mass sense. He asks the driver about it, and the driver basically tells him "Oh, I didn't think you'd be interested" and focuses on it intentionally for a second, revealing that it translates to "Eat Teegmee's Food." The fact that the Rigellians ignore advertisements gives Samms hope that maybe they're more like humans than they appear to be.
- In The Unidentified by Rae Mariz, Katey (aka "Kid") goes to a school that is run by corporations. They monitor the students' activities for market research.
- In Richard K. Morgan's novel Altered Carbon the advertising in the slums uses such intrusive methods that the cabs have some sort of screening technology to filter them out and protect the passengers. When the main character asks for the filter to be lowered so he can get a feel for the area, he's bombarded with a seething mass of subliminal and semi-hypnotic advertising, mostly for narcotics and prostitutes.
- In Snow Crash, neon advertizing is so inescapable that they've coined a term ("loglo") for the everpresent reddish light around a city. Its sort-of-sequel The Diamond Age is a world where microtechnology has made advertizing literally ubiquitous, and one character made his fortune by realizing you could advertise on chopsticks.
- In the novelisation of Red Dwarf, the mission of the Nova 5 (the ship the crew eventually found Kryten on) was to write a Coca-Cola slogan in the sky by blowing up hundreds of stars into supernovas.
- Most sophonts in the galactic community of Troy Rising have been fitted with implanted computer/communications technology. The newly-implanted (which for most species except humanity means children/adolescents) tend to rely on external AIs shielding them from/proxying local hypernet access until they learn how to use their implant's pop-up blockers, or risk sensory overload.
- The Ray Russell short story "The Room" takes it to the degree of ads being printed on money and on toilet paper.
- Fade to White, an Alternate History short story by Catherynne M. Valente is set in a post-World War Three United States that deliberately maintains the facade of The Fabulous Fifties. The Department of Advertising and Information is the largest employer outside the military, bombarding the populace with adds for cosmetics to hide the effects of radiation poisoning, beer laced with hormone suppressants to discourage infertile men from mating with fertile women (reserved for the few fertile Husbands), vegetables designed to leech poisons from the soil, and caffeine-laced products to maintain everyone's Stepford Smiler approach to what's actually a Crapsack World that's slowly dying out.
- The Charles Stross novel Halting State portrays Europe Twenty Minutes into the Future thusly, often tied into the fact that most people use their smartphones and augmented-reality glasses to interact with the world and each other, usually in the form of remarkbly well-tailored (and rather intrusive) targeted advertising referencing such things as workplace politics in their specific office. People using public transportation similarly have advertisements projected onto the windows for their viewing pleasure.
Live Action TV
- The second episode of Black Mirror, "15 Million Merits" depicts a future where every wall is covered in Kinect-powered flatscreen TVs playing a nonstop stream of adverts for talent shows, gameshows and porn. They can be skipped - but doing so costs the viewer money - and while an advert is playing the door to your flat locks itself. Looking away from the TV earns loud tones and a voice demanding that you RESUME VIEWING RESUME VIEWING RESUME VIEWING.
- The David Firth segments in Charlie Brookers Screenwipe show a future where the year 2008 (the segment was first aired in 2007) is bought by a marketing company which then forces everyone on the planet to end their conversations by linking arms and declaring "This conversation was brought to you by X".
- In the world of Shadowrun, advertising has long since moved off the physical plane and into the virtual. Unfortunately, since the vast majority of the population is wired into Augmented Reality, this means that about 90% of the world as they see it is bombarded with advertising. Companies that can afford spirit-binding magi can even send advertisements into the Astral Plane.
- In the Mega Corp-dominated future of Strangereal, as depicted in Ace Combat 3 Electrosphere, company logos will be slapped onto everything, even the wings and tails of air superiority fighter jets.
- The Tank weaponizes this in Monday Night Combat. His Product Grenade blares ads across enemies' vision and hearing for a few seconds.
- Futurama uses and to some extent parodies the trope, as seen in the page quote. In the future, adverts can be beamed into people's dreams in the form of gamma radiation, effectively filling them with product placement.
- In the The Simpsons episode "Holidays of Future Passed", it seems they have figured out how to make pop-up ads out of the stars themselves!