Today, these same passengers are fearlessly jumping into the driving seat and grabbing the steering wheel.
Ironically, this fundamental shift of power has come about through the increasing desire of brand owners to interact more fully with their tech-savvy viewers and customers.
The net result is that media owners are now being forced to take a back seat as they see the power shift to the audience.
And brand owners that seek a new role for themselves in this power shift have started to behave differently.
For one thing, it's much more important to help viewers and customers experience the brand and its values rather than merely tell them about it.
In fact, the art of copywriting may be consigned to the dustbin of history as it's now a spent force -- according to one Maurice Saatchi. Soon all advertising will become monosyllabic -- sorry, "one word equity". Eh?
I'm not convinced that brand owners "grunting" at their audiences is the way of the future, but then I'm no advertising guru!
However, all is not lost.
Other brand owners with a more expansive brand vocabulary are moving in the opposite direction with some really interesting results.
For example, one of the most interesting examples is to be found in the car industry.
Earlier this year, Land Rover was the first car manufacturer to launch a 24/7 broadband TV channel dedicated to the spirit of adventure.
The channel, Go Beyond is accessible from the Land Rover website (landrover.com) and contains broadcast-quality content that focuses more on lifestyle (journeys, places, food and wine) than blatant product placement or advertorial for Land Rover.
The sponsorship property G4 Global Challenge is brought to life through a series of programmes that chart the adventure of contestants across some of the most challenging urban and off road terrains in the world.
The channel is a powerful example of 'pull' rather than 'push' media and also represents a creative partnership between agencies across the digital, advertising, media planning and sponsorship divide.
The exercise succeeds in creating dialogue between the Land Rover brand and its customers online within a broadcast sponsorship context which could become a template for other car manufacturers to follow.
And although Go Beyond is aesthetically more pleasing to visit than a static web site, there's some powerful thinking behind it which is focused on creating short-term and long-term value.
For example, a Land Rover customer generates current-period cash flow by purchasing a vehicle and incurring costs today.
However, the same customer could change their intent or likelihood to buy a Land Rover in the future -- which in turn could increase or decrease their expected cash flows in the future -- what economists refer to as 'economic lifetime value'.
When a customer's likelihood of doing business in the future changes, as the result of their experience, this event actually creates or destroys value today, even though the actual cash effects of this aren't fully realised for weeks, months or even years.
In this context, Go Beyond is a great defensive strategy for the brand as well as making good commercial sense.
By engaging with its customers today, Land Rover is securing its future cash flows of tomorrow.
Ardi Kolah is chief strategy officer UK at Prism and author of Sponsorship: Strategies for Maximising the Return on Investment, published by SportBusiness. He can be contacted on 01483 441 008 or mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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This article was first published on brandrepublic.com