All hail the public
Treating Indifference as Higher Wisdom
“Impeach the Media,” urged the cover of last week’s New York. Stories inside the issue dissected a survey the magazine had commissioned to quantify public disgust with the media’s handling of the Clinton-Lewinsky story. Half of those surveyed thought the coverage had been irresponsible, 77 percent thought there’d been too much of it, 48 percent weren’t paying attention anymore, etc. In New York’s analysis, such numbers indicate the public has kept things in perspective while news outlets have run amok. However the press has behaved, does the public merit praise for its discriminating taste? People’s boredom with Lewinsky news looks suspiciously like a subset of their indifference to any news that doesn’t directly affect them. They don’t care about Kosovo, either, or about plenty of other stories where life or death is at stake. The fact that 35 percent of those polled couldn’t name even one of the evening news anchors (just 16 percent could name all three) hints at this lack of interest. Indeed, the number who characterized their attitude toward the media as “indifference” (45 percent) nearly equalled the combined total of those feeling “respect” (22 percent), “disgust” (20 percent) or “admiration” (6 percent). May we not suspect that this indifference to the media is a proxy for indifference to news of the world at large? In New York’s view, though, it shows “the public’s media innocence evolving into finely nuanced media sophistication.” Heaven forbid the public starts to believe the glowing press notices it has garnered in recent weeks. But then, it probably won’t even read them in the first place.
sex, sex, sex
No wonder brides are referred to as “blushing.” A reader poll by Bride’s Magazine finds them a concupiscent lot as they plan their honeymoons. Or perhaps they’re just the outdoorsy types. Anyhow, 62 percent say they intend to have sex on the beach, and 21 percent expect to do it in the woods. They needn’t fret about getting grimy in the process, since more than three-quarters foresee sex in the shower and two-thirds plan a hot-tub tryst. Then there are the 13 percent planning “to join the Mile High Club” en route to or from their honeymoon. Amid these reveries about revelries, brides-to-be do have worries about the honeymoon: 28 percent are afraid of spending too much, while 24 percent worry about how they’ll look in a bathing suit.
Either More Healthy or Less Truthful Than We Thought
Next time you need to bribe a kid with an edible treat, what would work best? Surprisingly, the little devils might be most tempted by an apple–or maybe an orange. In a Sesame Street Magazine poll among 2- to 6-year-olds (!), kids were asked to name their favorite food. Fruit won a plurality (22 percent), with pizza as runner-up (18 percent). Pasta and vegetables tied for third place (15 percent), while the likes of ice cream and tacos lagged among the kids’ miscellaneous mentions. Students of childhood nutrition will relish the poll’s findings. Students of survey data, on the other hand, will be seized by the awful suspicion that even 2-year-olds have already learned to give a pollster the answer he’s hoping to hear.
opines about wolves
Everyone Into the Poll!
Give them credit: People won’t let a little thing like ignorance stand in their way when it comes to taking part in surveys. Consider an online poll last week on CNN Interactive. At press time, 38,628 people had offered an opinion on whether it’s a good idea to reintroduce wolves to their former habitats. Are there 38,628 folks with an informed view of this matter? Doubtful. But they put in their two cents anyway. (Opinion was running strongly pro-wolf.) They’ll even offer an opinion when they’ve barely got one. After the Tripp-Lewinsky tapes were released, another CNN poll asked if Lewinsky’s voice “sounded like what you thought it would sound like.” Eighty-two percent of the nearly 40,000 participants took the trouble to answer, “Who cares?” Odd.
What Men Most Fear, The Offline Life, Etc.
It’s said that repetition is the essence of education. Of course, it’s also the essence of miseducation, but that’s another story. What matters in the case of some new anti-drug ads is that a kid never heeds a parent’s instructions until after the first few billion times they’ve been repeated. Parents know that’s true when it comes to such edicts as “Clean your room” and “Take out the garbage.” Hence, they’ll be receptive to the view that a single plea won’t suffice concerning drugs, either. The implicit commiseration with parents is a welcome change from the hectoring tone that often spoils such ads, and it predisposes us to accept this one’s advice. Gillespie Advertising of Princeton, N.J., created the piece for the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.
“What do men fear most?” That’s the question a pair of scientists set out to answer in a new commercial by Tinsley Advertising of Miami. They equip a young man with a virtual-reality headset, hook him up to a monitoring device and then subject him to all sorts of terrifying images: a close-up of a snarling grizzly bear, a Private Ryanesque scene of battle, etc. None of this fazes the fellow. Finally, the scientists beam a photo of an engagement ring at him. Naturally, he emits a blood-curdling scream as the “Fear” meter rocks off the scale. A female voiceover explains that Mayor’s Jewelers can ease the anxiety men feel about shopping for a diamond. It’s a funny spot. Still, one can’t help wondering whether the client’s target audience is more haunted by the specter of imminent marriage than by any shopping the event might entail. Banish that fear and you’ll put yourself in line for a Nobel prize.
Amid all the dreary terminology that has arisen from the computer age, a few phrases glow with unexpected charm. One of these is “going offline,” which evokes an image of people slipping free of their tethers and running loose through the streets. That picture comes readily to mind in reading a Yankelovich report about online consumers and the kinds of virtual communities that engage them. The research found, among other things, that 16 percent of online consumers have had “offline meetings” with someone they met online. Among Gen Xers who are online, the figure rises to 25 percent. The report doesn’t tell us what percentage of these people were disappointed when they met their cyberpals in the flesh. Other tidbits from the study: 30 percent of online consumers say they participate (whether “frequently” or “occasionally”) in chat rooms, while 25 percent take part in games. Comparing online consumers who participate in chat rooms with those who don’t, the study finds the former tend to be younger, stressed/depressed, materialistic, interested in music and (attention all marketers) “likely to use brands as status symbols.”
One of the things for which Gen Xers secretly envy baby boomers is the latter group’s superhuman visual acuity. How else, after all, could boomers have deciphered the wild typefaces on album covers, Fillmore concert posters and other printed matter during the psychedelic age? In truth, boomers could scarcely read the stuff, either, but they enjoyed it nonetheless. Thus, members of Swampscott High’s Class of 1973 will cheerfully don bifocals to learn the whereabouts of their 25th reunion this weekend. And whose smiling face adorns the clever poster? None other than Gary Greenberg, a principal in Boston agency Greenberg Seronick O’Leary and Partners–in other words, a Swampscott ’73 boy who made good. His hair no longer looms quite so large, but Greenberg confides that the portrait here is reminiscent of his yearbook photo.
Usually, a sport’s detractors are the ones who refer to its participants as a bunch of animals. Then there’s rugby. A series of ads for the Australian Rugby Union (via Leo Burnett’s outpost in Sydney) relates the players to animals of various sorts, ranging from kangaroos to spiders to leopards. The campaign’s themeline: “Go with your instincts.”
All hail the public
Treating Indifference as Higher Wisdom
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