Marian Salzman

Together, these 10 trends will make 2006 subtly different from 2005, significantly different from 2000 and radically different from 1995. 1. Sex with no apologies. Sexual images and talk push more limits than ever. Prime-time shows run sexually explicit storylines, porn actors become celebrities and celebrities’ sexual antics amuse rather than disgrace. It’s an era of sex without apologies. But there is a countertrend. In the United States, the legislative tide has turned against social liberalism. And in the Muslim world, headscarves and all-covering clothing are in vogue for women with one foot planted squarely in the West. In 2006, expect bigger fault lines between sexual conservatives and liberals.

2. Faking reality and celebrity. Reality TV blurs the line between “really real” and “TV real,” so it’s sensational when “real reality” breaks through. Consider the very real and emotional rescue of pets after Hurricane Katrina versus the questionable reality of Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie on The Simple Life. The shifting nature of celebrity, too, is changing reality. Anyone with media exposure is a celebrity. Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame are here, so watch for more authenticity.

3. The timelessness of India and China. The traditions of these two countries resonate for many self-described spiritual people. These traditions offer ancient practices for “stepping out of time” and deep notions of balance. The ability to traverse the adrenaline of 24/7 and the serenity of timelessness will become highly prized. In 2006, the most switched-on Indians and Chinese will tap this well, and Western business leaders will look to them for more depth than MBA programs or Forbes.

4. Downtime and downspace are disappearing. We welcome mobile phones and WiFi, and curse them as we learn to appreciate the dwindling buffers of downtime and personal space. In 2006, smart brands will figure out how to participate in consumers’ downspace and downtime. Few will do it well.

5. Eco-awareness is no longer the sole domain of Hollywood and tree-huggers. The 2004 tsunami and Hurricane Katrina gave the media ample drama, pushed the environment further up the public agenda and got many people wondering: What’s next? Environmental interest will grow.

6. Living with Islam. Back when, Islam was merely an issue of academic interest. Now, religious conservatism is back, and conservative Islam is influential. But traditional Islam doesn’t sit easily with multiculturalism, leaving millions of Muslims torn between two worlds of conflicting values. In 2006 and beyond, coming to terms with the problems of cohabitation will be an urgent challenge.

7. Personal control freaks. Consumers have become used to getting more of what they want and less of what they don’t. Highly competitive markets give these more independent consumers huge leverage to exercise personal control. The promise of something better is often a click away. Yet as personal control grows, so do demands, expectations and complaints. The most control-conscious consumers are easily dissatisfied and ready to move on. Their brand-switching will become even more the norm.

8. Brand sluts. As choice and competition increase, brand sluts are open to any attractive offer. Five big trends foster promiscuity: commoditization, outsourcing, brand inflation, rapid innovation and information access. In 2006, brands must decide whether they can really expect loyalty and whether they themselves are loyal to their customers.

9. Questioning the costs of mobility. Until very recently, no one doubted that the benefits of mobility far outweighed the costs; now, the cost-benefit equation is shifting. Fuel costs more, and traffic congestion is getting worse. Transport authorities are preparing road pricing. Air security checks, missed takeoff slots, long taxiing times and congested air lanes all add time costs. And all mobility incurs environmental costs. This year, consumers, companies and authorities are certain to ask serious questions about the costs and benefits of personal mobility in its current form.

10. Thinking about the next pandemic. Globalization and mobility have provided opportunities for pathogenic bugs of all sorts. Medical officials are preparing for the next pandemic, which many fear is inevitable. Natural disasters have shown just how quickly and massively normal life can be upended. This could be the year of the next pandemic.

Now, what does all this mean? Huge changes in technology and in society in recent years have blurred many of the old, familiar, reassuring boundaries. Where does work stop and life begin? Who counts as family? In less volatile times, the boundaries were very clear. Going into 2006, so many of the complex issues facing us have no clear right or wrong answers. Some who feel a strong need for boundaries, defined by legal terms, moral codes or personal values, will look to the past for guidance and likely come up with conservative guidelines from previous eras, as may well be the case with the U.S. Supreme Court. Others with a higher tolerance for ambivalence may develop their own flexible boundaries. More than likely, 2006 will be a blended year. Individuals and societies will try to organize their chaos with boundaries, only to find too much is changing too fast for boundaries to hold for long.

Marian Salzman is evp, director of strategic content at JWT. She can be reached at