14 REALTOR® MAY/JUNE 2015 REALTORMAG.REALTOR.ORG
It’s 2015. Where’s My Hoverboard?
The “Back to the Future” franchise offers prophetic insights about the
real estate industry, predicting the scope of change over three decades.
A time span of 30 years—more substantial than mere decades, but more manageable than a century—provides useful
perspective on technological innovation.
Now that three decades have passed
since time travelers Marty McFly and Dr.
Emmett Brown traveled to 2015 in “Back
to the Future Part II,” let’s look back at the
future they saw and examine how their
predictions have played out in real life,
particularly at the notable implications
for the real estate industry.
Set in fictional Hill Valley, Calif., in
1985, both the first and second “Back
to the Future” films use the 30-year
conceit to explore how life has changed
since 1955 and how it might transform
by 2015. The first movie was a smoother,
more critically acclaimed film, perhaps
because 1955 was relatively easy to
recreate. In “Back to the Future Part II,”
director Robert Zemeckis had to dream
up what life would be like in 2015. Back
when the sequel was released in 1989,
the late film critic Gene Siskel called
it “very gadget-filled and really noisy.”
Indeed, real life in 2015 shares many
similarities to the future envisioned by
Zemeckis and cowriter Bob Gale. Hill
Valley’s retro “Cafe 80’s” diner offers a
colorful background, but it’s doubtful the
set builders knew the real 2015 would
see leg warmers back on store shelves or
record companies releasing new albums
on cassette tapes. When the film poked
fun at executive producer Steven Spielberg with a “holoplex” movie theater ad
for “Jaws 19,” was it simply looking for an
easy cultural reference or did it somehow
predict the 3-D sequel-mania that would
grip Holly wood in the first decades of the
Setting aside the prognostication
prowess of the filmmakers, let’s put on a
real estate lens to see the marketing mar-
vels and property-related technologies
that jumped from Hill Valley to real life.
That tongue-in-cheek ad for “Jaws 19”
contains clues about the future of advertising. In the movie, McFly fears he’ll be
swallowed up by a holographic shark that
dives down from a billboard above him.
After setting aside the creature’s eerie
resemblance to Katy Perry’s “left shark”
(the costumed character who grabbed
the nation’s attention during the 2015
Super Bowl halftime show), we know that
individually targeting one customer in
the crowd is already possible in the real
2015. Real estate pros are learning how
beacon technology can help them zero in
on potential clients passing by For Sale
signs (see “Real Estate and the Internet
of Things,” March/April 2015, page 26).
So the idea that McFly could be targeted
by the makers of “Jaws 19” isn’t too far
off from today’s hyperfocused marketing