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Advert-Overloaded Future

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Leela: Didn't you have ads in the 20th century?
Fry: 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 bananas and written in the sky. But not in our dreams!

Garishly colored, building-high illuminated billboards are a stock way to illustrate an urban dystopia, especially in cyberpunk, and depict a future where consumerism has gone mad. Cyberpunk and near-future sci fi often shows a world where it is impossible to do anything — even eat, sleep or go to the bathroom — without seeing and hearing advertisements from Mega-Corp. Characters incessantly get ads from a big chirpy computer telescreen that Soylent Soy is Crunchtastic, 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.

While corporate ads dominate in the depictions, billboards may also shill rose-colored, saccharine-cheery propaganda for a totalitarian regime.

The adverts can take the form of Blipverts, Sex Sells, Enforced Plugs, The Man Is Sticking It to the Man, Subliminal Advertising, Neon City, Product Placement Name, 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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  • While most of Cowboy Bebop is set in dingy, less-affluent parts of the Used Future, in a flashback to Faye Valentine's past, specifically when she is revived from from cryogenic suspension, she comes across several vending machines that suddenly turn on and bombard her with holographic advertisements for themselves.
  • Ergo Proxy shows a future in which advertisements are constantly blaring on loudspeaker in the domed city of Romdeau without any breaks between them.
  • In the pilot of Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045, Togusa is driving through a Red Light District saturated with Augmented Reality advertising. He swipes them away and notes that the real world underneath is hardly an improvement.

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  • Górsky & 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.
  • The Status 7 duology ( From the creators of Górsky and Butch mentioned above) is set in a cyberpunk Warsaw overloaded with ads, this sets up some visual gags such as local Polish brands having enormous corporate HQ's dwarfing regular skyscrapers and a Running Gag where any and all advertising uses Sex Sells no matter how mundane the product which leads to some downright bizarre ads.
  • 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.
  • In Wanted, The Fraternity occasionally makes raids on a futuristic universe called Parallel-2 where people can be paid to have advertisements put on their teeth.

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  • WALL•E:
    • There's enormous television screens everywhere on Earth, which presumably are intended to share information with the people but generally are just covered with advertisements for Buy n Large and the Axiom space liner. On the former Buy n Large website, the company claims to have bought and licenced north. Compasses now point you towards "Buy n Large North". They call this Directional Advertising.
    • On the Axiom itself the advertising is even more omnipresent, including such gems as telling the red-suited denizens to "try blue, it's the new red" and a brief glimpse into the ship's daycare.
    Robot teacher: "'A' is for Axiom, your home sweet home. 'B' is for Buy n Large, your very best friend."

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  • Ad Astra has a variant: the space bases are basically today's airports in the Moon and Mars, including the same plentiful stores and ads.
  • Anon (2018): Large augmented reality advertisements are displayed all over the major skyscrapers, shops have AR models outside their stores, and window shopping is a whole lot more literal when the technology can simulate you wearing whatever is in the window.
  • In Avatar, the deleted scenes showing the earth city in which Jake previously lived depicts it as a cyberpunk multi-level metropolis, where skyscrapers, shop windows, trains, etc., and even on the ceilings of levels are plastered with ads, including those for present-day companies such as McDonald's, which apparently still exist 130 years in the future.
  • Babylon A.D.: The protagonists fly into New York on an airliner with a Coke Zero ad painted across its entire surface. The city is a nightmare of migraine-inducing neon ads covering pretty much every surface of every larger building, interspersed with beams of powerful spotlights stabbing into the sky.
  • Almost all buildings in Blade Runner feature animated advertisements that show a geisha taking some pills and drinking Coca-Cola that play constantly. Blade Runner helped popularize this trope in the Cyberpunk Genre.
  • Branded (2012) is about a future where advertising is not only everywhere but it controls people's minds as well.
  • The London of 2027 in Children of Men has moving digital billboards on buildings and the sides of buses, as well as flatscreens inside public transport and shops. Mostly they show government propaganda and adverts for various medications.
  • Idiocracy uses this trope heavily: in 2505 politicians are paid to fill their speeches with Product Placement, all clothing has corporate logos on it, and even names mostly consist of products (the president's middle name is "Mountain Dew").
  • Josie and the Pussycats, in its parody of pop music and youth consumerism, takes place in an Advert-Overloaded Present. Dujour's private jet is branded with the Target logo inside and out, while every inch of New York looks like Times Square.
  • In Minority Report, walking down the street has become a hyperstimulating nightmare, as talking holographic advertisements use retinal scans to sell directly to you. Constantly. As an added bit of fridge horror, prior to making the movie, Spielberg convened a panel of scientists and businessmen to take some educated guesses as to what the near future would look like and they came up with this.
  • In the 1959 Soviet film Nebo Zovyot, there's a Take That! against the capitalist system with American astronauts being forced to read commercials during their flight to Mars (the scene became Harsher in Hindsight when Russian astronauts had to do this in real life to support their cash-strapped space program). America is shown to be full of garish neon signs plugging space-related products.
  • In Ready Player One (2018), in the contest for control of the world-spanning, world-changing "Oasis" Metaverse software, there's a scene showing that if Innovative Online Industries wins, they've already got it down to a science how many advertisements they'll be able to spam everyone with constantly before there's risk of a seizure.
  • Large and loud animated billboards are all over the place in Repo! The Genetic Opera, and they're all pushing Gene Co. products, including the titular opera.
  • May not be a perfect example, since Star Wars is set "a long time ago", but Attack of the Clones showed Coruscant's lower levels overrun with advertisement. Star Wars: The Clone Wars portrays it similarly. The rest of the planet, though, is either much better or much worse.
  • They Live! portrays present-day (late '80s) Los Angeles as this, thanks to the aliens hiding Subliminal Seduction behind those ads to lull humanity into apathy.
  • In Total Recall (1990), there are video screens in the subway trains showing constant ads. Two ads in particular, the Rekall and North West ones, hint at what Quaid's next move will be in the plot.
  • The future of The Zero Theorem is filled with adverts, including one for the Church of Batman the Redeemer, whose leader is played by the late Robin Williams in a cameo.

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  • 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. Wells also used the idea in A Story of the Days to Come, written around the same time and also set in the 22nd century.
  • 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. Advertising so dominates cultural life that the Metropolitan Museum of Art is exhibiting the Maidenform "I Dreamed" ads in its Classics wing. Then again, the narrative of The Space Merchants is largely colored by the perspective of its protagonist, an advertising man who gets sorely disappointed when reading old library books with no ads in them.
    • Horrific as the advertising is in The Space Merchants, in The Merchant's War it's made worse with the introduction of "Campbell areas", where anyone who enters one is subjected to remote limbic system stimulation, creating instant addiction to a particular product. The only cure is being subjected to counter-conditioning — basically associating the product with being tortured; the cure has a significant fatality rate.
  • 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:
    • 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 (2002) 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, though the passengers can bribe the cabbie to at least lower the volume.
  • 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.
  • Terry Pratchett demanded his publishers pull out of a deal with a German publishing company, when he realised the company involved saw nothing wrong with peppering the German editions of the Discworld with text-breaking adverts for completely unrelated products.
  • In Snow Crash, neon advertising 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 advertising 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 A.I.s shielding them from/proxying local hypernet access until they learn how to use their implant's pop-up blockers, or risk sensory overload.
  • "The Room", a Short Story by Ray Russell, has ads being printed on everything (clothes, money, toilet paper, between the lines of newspaper articles), along with always-on daytime television, Subliminal Advertising in bathroom mirrors, doorbells that play commercial jingles, and ads projected on room ceilings.
  • Fade to White, an Alternate History short story by Catherynne M. Valente is set in a post-World War III 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 20 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 remarkably 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.
  • The titular city-planet Riesel in Riesel Tales: Two Hunters. Ads are everywhere, even in orbit, and advertise just about anything. Considering the planet's status as an immoral and crime-infested cesspool, the characters occasionally see things they wish they hadn't.
  • In the Bad Future chapter of Cloud Atlas, adverts are regularly projected onto the Moon — and it's been that way for at least a generation.
  • Every character in Jennifer Government is named for the company they currently work for.
  • In a future China from The Bones Of Time by Kathleen Ann Goonan, one of the self-driving cabs Lynn and Akamu board is overly-riddled with this. Ads glow on every interior surface, utilizing a soft purr of English and Japanese, Others appear and disappear, at times overlapping along the driveway pavements, holoing when cars approach to allow unhindered passage. The earlier mentioned taxi even dispenses free perfume for the riders to sample.
  • In Sisters of the Vast Black, Sister Faustina opens a message from a colony, only to be bombarded with advertisements about food, ship repair and a moon base.
  • In Hoshi and the Red City Circuit, corporate chip readers that float outside shopping centers bombard pedestrians with personalized ads based on their ID chips.
  • The Murderbot Diaries
    • In Rogue Protocol, Murderbot is startled and annoyed when a hologram activated by marker paint on the floor of a mostly abandoned space station springs up in front of it. Such paint is only supposed to be used for emergency evacuation instructions.
    • In Exit Strategy, Murderbot tries to access the feed on TranRollinHyfa, but any useful information is obscured by the static created by competing corporation advertisements who are trying to drown out the adds of their rivals.

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  • In Altered Carbon, no sooner has Kovacs inserted an Augmented Reality contact lens than he gets swamped with video ads playing over every available surface. Thanks to his Envoy training (and being high on drugs at the time) he finds himself in assimilation overload. Fortunately Ortega shows up to install an adblocker.
  • 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 Brooker's 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 Maniac (2018), instead of using money people can pay for products using an Ad Buddy, who will pay for whatever product in exchange for reading ads to the person for a certain amount of time.
  • Star Trek: Picard: When the crew arrives at Freecloud in "Stardust City Rag", they are bombarded with invasive holographic ads that tailor themselves to their viewers: Rios gets an ad for starship repairs, Picard is shown one for high tea at a luxury hotel, Raffi receives one for a drug emporium, and Jurati is "attacked" by a futuristic Rock-Em-Sock-Em robot that has to be punched before it'll go away. Elnor actually seems a bit disappointed not to get one.

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  • The city of Cy in CY_BORG (2022) has skies that are virtually saturated with ads, one of the many things wrong with the place.
  • Pokémon Tabletop Adventures: The Babel setting takes place in a cyberpunk metropolis called Heizhou, so naturally this trope is in full effect. Augmented Reality ads are everywhere and ubiquitous, and professional Pokémon Trainers are expected to wear the brands and advertise the products of the megacorps which sponsor them.
  • 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.
  • Downplayed trope in Transhuman Space. The cover of Toxic Memes shows a woman with various Augumented Reality "screens" hovering around her, about half of which seem to be advertising. However, the text of the books says most AR systems have pretty good adblock if you want it.

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  • 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.
  • ANNO: Mutationem: Being set in a Post-Cyberpunk metropolis, the cities of Skopp and Noctis display a massive amount of advertisements from multiple corporations with a variety of other cultures and ethnicities with showings of Virtual Idols and new products developed by The Tithonus Group.
  • The Tank weaponizes this in Monday Night Combat. His Product Grenade blares ads across enemies' vision and hearing for a few seconds.
  • Blade Runner, like the film, has adverts littering the ground level and skyline of the city.
  • The Outer Worlds: Halcyon is run by an alliance of mega-corporations known as the Board, so there are advertisements everywhere. This is especially prevalent on the Groundbreaker, a former colony ship that serves as a major trading hub.
  • In the 2013 SimCity game and expansion pack Cities of Tomorrow, many of the futurized buildings and mega-towers are loaded to some degree with holographic signs and billboards. Some of these billboards are actually describing the building's function (Such as "Sky Bridge Terminal" or "Maglev"), while others are just of the standard commercial and industrial variety. They even have signs with a panda on it for some reason...
  • The cityscapes of Starcraft II contain enormous flashing billboards for various products (Nuke Noodles comes to mind) and propaganda posters, some of which you get to kill.
  • E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy's industrial and habitation zones are piled high with neon adverts and signs. One map includes a blimp flying over the city covered in advertisements for offworld colonies.
  • Elite Dangerous features ads for various in-game ship makers, like Zorgon Peterson, Saud Kruger, and Gutamaya outside the "Mailbox" docking slot of most Space Stations and inside most hangar bays. The Federation also bombards its citizens relentlessly with advertising on a daily basis.
  • In X: Rebirth, space stations are plastered with advertisements for their products and their interiors likewise are full of scrolling ads. Taken to the next level in the Home Of Light Expansion Pack, where the eponymous star system has omnipresent advertisements; dedicated advertisement "Zepp" ships fly around the zones, the highway system's district signs are surrounded by holographic advertisements, and the independent habitat stations are covered wall-to-wall in blindingly bright ads.
  • Dead Space features posters with ads for Unitology and something called "Peng", as well as "reminders" about safety aboard the Ishimura.
  • In Mirror's Edge Catalyst, when Faith is released from jail and activates her Beat Link Augmented Reality display, she's immediately bombarded with miscellaneous notifications, weather reports, a stock exchange ticker, a news reel, GPS, and other UI clutter.
  • Something of an Enforced Trope in Cyberpunk 2077, which features Night City crammed full of advertising in everywhere from elevators to billiards tables, a side effect of corporations filling the void left by the government after the Fourth Corporate War. Sex Sells in particular is in full effect, with some ads being borderline pornographic.
  • Billboard Town, the final course in the GameCube racing game Tube Slider.
  • The rounds introduced in the futuristic Season 4 of Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout have brand logos plastered all over the place. These brands include: BLAM Inflatables, WIG Industries, and EGG (yes, just "EGG"). The WIG Industries logo also appears at the end of Season 4's final release trailer. You can even have your Fall Guy be a walking billboard with the Ad Guy pattern, which adorns your guy with ads and logos.
  • In Sunrider, the economic center of the Solar Alliance is a space station called the Astrium. It is crammed full of colorful holographic billboards advertising all manner of products, inside and out.

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  • Amphibia: Inverted in the case of Newtopia. "True Colors" and "The Core and the King" show that a thousand years ago, Newtopia during its era of trans-dimensional planet-looting under the Core's direction had holographic banners all over the streets; featuring newts, silhouettes resembling the king (implying propaganda), and enlistenment-esque adverts calling on citizens to support the city's efforts to invade and conquer other worlds for Newtopia's advancement.
  • Futurama episode "A Fishful of Dollars" uses and to some extent parodies the trope. 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 Simpsons episode "Holidays of Future Passed", it seems they have figured out how to make pop-up ads out of the stars themselves!