In 2018, we find ourselves officially trapped between the past and the future.


One day I began to read a self-help book that a boyfriend gave me in high school. I remember that it said that happiness was to live in the present: stop being tied to the past and avoid fantasizing so much about the future. The kind of phrase that stays with you. Probably because in those days I was conflicted by my inclination to reminisce and to plan…so if I stopped finding comfort in my memories or in fantasizing about my future, would I be happier?

Many years later, I see that our society tends towards nostalgia and prospection in a stubborn and even foolish manner. We see the past as if it had been the best (as the insight we get from the movie “Midnight in Paris”) and we are obsessed with the flying cars arriving at last; without realizing that the present has much better things and much worse than the past, and we don´t stop to think that we are already living surrounded by technology that corresponds to the most unbelievable science fiction (an example of this are the gadgets that will soon self-destruct).

This year the films nominated for the Oscar in the best picture category are an interesting reflection of our inclination towards nostalgia. The vast majority of the nominated films are situated in the past ( From Darkest Hour and Dunkirk framed in the Second World War to Lady Bird situated in 2002 or I Tonya, situated at some point in the 90s). Why is this? I dare to think that it has something to do with the certainty that allows us to thoroughly understand the context at that particular point in time. I´ll explain myself: Lady Bird occurs exactly one year after the fall of the Twin Towers, exactly when Americans were experiencing a very important emotional readjustment; it isn´t until now that we realize everything that was at stake at that historic moment and how it influenced everyone´s lives. And not to mention the Second World War, an event we continue to address collectively, and one that we still reflect on from a distance.

And if we look forward, the audiovisual content is increasingly trying to approach the future. We have an obsession about drawing a world in which robots and Artificial Intelligence are a reality; as in Ex Machina, which is no more than a long episode the popular Black Mirror, series that investigates the negative consequences of “technological excess”. Perhaps understanding these possible scenarios may be a way of processing them and may help us to avoid them.

Film is a cultural content that says a lot about our expectations, fears and desires as a society. Could it be that if we situate films in the present we lose the larger big picture because we can´t define the context and the implications of this precise moment in history yet?

Think about many successful series such as Lost or This is Us: plagued with flash-forwards and flashbacks. It would seem that situating stories in the past and in the future helps us to better understand our present. We feel attracted to them because they help us to understand who we are, which decisions were good or bad and also where we want to go and where we don´t want to go.

Brand storytelling is not indifferent to the social anachronism we are going through. Perhaps that is why Volkswagen bases a lot of its digital content talking about the history of the “Vocho” (Volkswagen sedan), the Combi (VW van) and the Caribe, although with this approach they leave the promotion of their new launchings aside. On the other extreme Santander won the Cannes Grand Prix with a short film much like the original Blade Runner (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56jYpd8MN6U&t=20s Which strategy do you think is more effective?

Thinking of what we just exposed and of how we should act today… how much do we want to be anchored in the past and to what extent do we want one foot in the future? Look back and analyze the context in which our actions worked or didn´t work, or stop and study the implications of past events can definitely shed some light and help us to act more efficiently. Likewise, projecting our future, gives us more clarity of where we are headed and above all of what things we should avoid today so that what we want will occur as we planned. This can be used as an invitation to play with the past, the present and the future in order to have a much broader and more interesting perspective of what we are seeking for our brands and businesses.

With all of this, I think that “happiness” is much more complex than that simple advice to “live in the present” that I found in that self-help book. Nowadays our way of perceiving time is more complex; It would seem that in order to live we need to take something from the present as well as from the future and the past and in this way respond to the breathtaking pace in which we live.