Will self-checkouts ever speak like Michael Jackson?

It’s been over a quarter of a century since Marty McFly stepped into the DeLorean time machine to pay us a visit on October 21st 2015. However, things haven’t gone exactly to plan – or the way that Marty experienced it the first time round.

There really aren’t many people using fax machines anymore – instead the go to of communications technology is of course mobile phones. There’s also sadly nowhere to eat where a virtual Michael Jackson will take our order for fajitas. In fact, many of us still prefer to be served by a person at the supermarket rather than wrestle with the self-checkouts.

So how would Marty McFly feel about the technological innovations that we have made? As a technical PR company, we’re always researching and marketing the latest gadgets – we’re desperate to know what brilliant inventions the future will bring to our desks. We guessed that now is the ideal time to find out, and managed to catch up with Marty before he disappeared into an explosion of lasers, fire and smoke.

Ed: Hi Marty McFly, it’s a pleasure to meet you and thank you for coming back to the future to meet us.
Marty: It’s a pleasure to be here. Again.

Ed: Quite. On that note, let’s start by asking, is 2015 how you remembered it?
Marty: No way. It’s way different. Where are all the flying cars and the self-tying shoes? I was looking forward to seeing Jaws 19, so I was gutted to see that it finished at Jaws Revenge – what happened to the rest of them?

Ed: We’ve moved on….
Marty: You call Sharknado progress?

Ed: Ahem. Maybe not. What else is different?
Marty: What happened to all the hoverboards? I at least thought you’d have those by now!

Ed: Well, we’ve got the Swegway…
Marty: Yeah, but you’re not allowed to actually ride them are you? Did you see that story about the cop who got busted for riding one in London, England?

Ed: Very true. We see you’ve discovered hyperlinks though. You completely didn’t see the Internet coming when you first came back to the future did you?
Marty: Yeah, you’ve got me there. I have to say this Internet thing is neat. Much better than the dust-repellent paper the first time I came to 2015.

Ed: You missed out on mobile phones too…
Marty: True, but we did have flying cars, self-tying shoes and hoverboards. Did I mention that?

Ed: You might have. OK, so what DID you actually get right?
Marty: Well, we had something very like your Google Glass devices, with things like built-in cameras and even something very much like your Interweb…

Ed: It’s Internet…
Marty: Yeah, Internet. Plus we also had plasma screen TVs, 3D movies and even video calls, which I think you guys call Skype? As I’ve been here once already, I’ve had a good 25 years to teach my parents how to use it. 

Ed: Useful. So apart from flying cars, self-tying shoes and hoverboards, what one thing are you surprised we don’t have in our version of 2015?
Marty: Well, I think automatic dog walkers were a pretty great idea. And self-drying jackets, which would save you guys a fortune on tumble-drying. There were also remote control litter bins that could empty themselves.

Ed: Aha! Now that we might be able to do. There’s a plan to use the Internet of Things in Milton Keynes so that dustbins can tell the local council when they need emptying.
Marty:  Err yeah, that’s great. Real cutting-edge stuff. Let’s hope you find some other things to do with it too.

Ed: Like what?
Marty: No idea. Hey, how about I go find out and come back and tell you in 25 years.

Ed: Any room in that time machine for a passenger?
Marty: Nope. Sorry. Flux capacitor is taking up all the room. Cheerio. See you on 21st October 2040.

Ed: Give our love to Jennifer and the kids. And say hi to Doc for us. Oh, you’ve gone…

It would seem that Marty wasn’t all that enthralled with the advances we’ve made or perhaps he was feeling slightly bitter that he didn’t predict the rise of smart phone technology and social media…

If you’d like to experience just how far we’ve come since the decade of Back to the Future’s conception just take a look at how clunky the original Macintosh was in 1984 and then take a look at your iPad. Weighing 16.5 pounds, the original Mac had just 128k of memory and was cited for user-friendly developments such as its pull down menus, mouse and icons.

The first mobile phone also made its debut in 1984, weighed nearly 11 pounds and needed a car to be charged. We like things much lighter in 2015, and with the average memory of a smartphone at 16GB (that’s one thousand million bytes in comparison to the original Mac’s one thousand) we can only begin to imagine what the capabilities of mobile technology will be in another 25 years’ time.

In fact, the closest way of experiencing the destabilising effect of time-travel is to visit the National Musuem of Computing in Milton Keynes. Here you can awe at the size and mass of the first laptops as well as the first stored-program digital computer of the 1950s, the ‘WITCH’. We highly recommend a visit, but in the mean-time we’ll be waiting here patiently for Marty to come back and report from the future.

Interview with an astronaut

Space. The final frontier. No, this isn’t a commentary on hit TV series ‘Star Trek’ or even a report on the lunar eclipse this morning. This is instead a blog about how a recent project at Armitage Communications was designed to encourage delegates to attend a secure networks conference.


Using the universe as a theme to promote an event may seem grandiose. However, when the challenges of reaching a particular target audience are considered it’s a little more understandable. Getting the right mix of communication tools could be compared to selecting the right crew for a mission into space, and the key note speaker at our client’s conference was lucky enough to be one of a select few who have made it there, to infinity and beyond.

Michel Tognini, born in France on the 30th September, 1949 made his first journey into space on 27th July 1992. He knows a thing or two about how important communications are, whether they’re between a client and their delegates or between a spaceship and mission control on Earth.

Thus, it was clear that Michel would be the ideal representative for our client to anchor their potential delegates. Of course, the next question was how to spread the message loud and clear. Drawing on Michel’s extraordinary experiences in the form of an interview seemed to be the answer. To be placed in the customer’s magazine, the aim was to secure substantial interest in the topic, and through this higher attendance at the conference.

Start the ignitions

Using our in-depth knowledge of the client’s products and services as well as the communications market enabled us to devise questions that would support the conference themes as well as uncover Michel’s own views of his experiences. For example, ‘What back up comms did you have during spaceflight?’ encouraged him to consider exactly how important communications were in securing his crew’s safety during their Columbia mission.

Researching Michel’s background and space travel experience was therefore fundamental to this campaign. Discovering the major problems that affected his Space Shuttle launch was both fascinating and humbling. To convey this to the audience was of significant value; garnering their curiosity was a sure-fire way of encouraging attendance.

Michel Tognini made his first journey into space in 1992

Furthermore, conducting the interview efficiently with such a busy person was important. In true twenty-first century style, email correspondence was all that was required to arrange a suitable time and date for our Account Director to call Michel. Thirty minutes were scheduled for the telephone interview, when in actual fact our Account Director managed to complete it in just less than twenty minutes.

Prepare to launch

The more challenging aspect of the project was deciding which information obtained in the interview was relevant for the piece. Creating an article which was accessible to a wide audience was important to us. Knowing the readers would be knowledgeable about communications technology but wouldn’t necessarily know much about the ins and outs of space travel, our Account Director left out some of the more detailed technical descriptions about the launch. Instead, he focused more on Michel’s comments which conveyed his excitement and wonder at being able to travel in space.

An interesting fact that Michel shared with our Account Director was that at one point during the mission, an electrical fault hit the Space Shuttle. All the lights in the cabin went out, which must have been very dramatic, and really quite scary. This information hasn’t been mentioned in any of the online documents covering the incident.

A crucial stage in the process is gaining the approval of the client and the interviewee. Once Michel had made some minor changes to clarify some technical points, the interview was ready to launch.

Mission complete

The interview was published in the customer magazine and featured on the front cover as a key anchor to tempt readers in. Once the audience became engaged with the interview, the likelihood that they would attend the conference became significantly higher. Their interest in the key themes of the event was stimulated through a fascinating tale of space, communications and mission control, encouraging their curiosity to find out more by attending the conference and hearing Michel Tognini, an ex-astronaut, speak in person.

Want to find out how Armitage Communications could help promote your B2B event? Through a range of content marketing deliverables such as social media, e-mailers, flyers and articles, we can ensure your conference is attended by the right people. Please contact us on 0208 667 2210 to find out more.