QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Do Most People Think Honesty Is the Best Policy?
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QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Do Most People Think Honesty Is the Best Policy?
Honesty is an odd virtue

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Do Most People Think Honesty Is the Best Policy?
Honesty is an odd virtue. It’s widely regarded as an admirable thing, but few of us seem eager to have more of it than we’ve already got. And we often see people prospering, at least in the short run, precisely because their store of honesty is so meager. By contrast, one seldom sees people getting ahead because they lack such cardinal virtues as prudence and fortitude. Under the circumstances, can we safely assume that honesty retains its traditional stature among Americans? In a nationwide survey conducted for Adweek by Alden & Associates, a marketing research firm based in Hermosa Beach, Calif., adults were asked: Do you think most people believe honesty is the best policy? Respondents were narrowly divided, with 48.3 percent saying “yes” and 51.7 percent saying “no.” Older respondents were more likely than younger ones to fall into the “yes” camp. While we were at it, we posed a related question: In general, who do you think is more truthful–men or women? The tally wasn’t even close on this one, with 71.8 percent of respondents giving women the nod. Female respondents were especially likely to hold that view, with 81.7 percent doing so. But a majority of male respondents (57 percent) also conceded honesty honors to women. All of this assumes, of course, that our respondents were being truthful when they answered the survey.

ARISE AND EAT!: After-Midnight Meals
Good news for food marketers: A body-building magazine is urging its readers to wake up in the middle of the night so they can pack away more food. This “anabolic wake-up call,” says Muscle & Fitness, will let them build more muscle mass than if they just ate during normal waking hours. “After all, sleep, among other things, is an extended fast,” the magazine explains. A helpful chart of suggested meals carries the headline, “Eating Round-the-Clock.” If only the food industry could convince unmuscular consumers to follow suit, it would create a vast new market for itself. Amid the creeping infantilization of modern society, surely some canny marketer can persuade adults they deserve a 2:00 a.m. feeding.

MERRY WIVES: Tracking Progress In American Marriage
An article in Redbook quotes a sociology professor on marriage, old and new: “In all the old studies, married women were always the most depressed group in
society, but that seems to have changed.” Bad luck for whichever cohort has taken over as the most depressed, eh? In any case, Redbook is glad to report that 86 percent of the married women responding to a reader poll described themselves as happily married. Does the generational progress from depression to happiness mean today’s marriages are radically different from the earlier ones? As you can see from the chart, the survey detected mixed signals on that matter. While a majority of the respondents termed themselves “more independent” than their mothers, just over one-third said their marriages are “less traditional.” Most couples still divide “household responsibilities” along traditional lines, according to the poll’s respondents. But a slim majority (52 percent) said their husbands do help out more around the house than their fathers did, while 43 percent say their husbands are more involved with raising the kids than was true of the earlier generation.

DOWN AND DOWN: Checking the Job Market
The market for jobs in advertising, marketing and media has gone cold, judging by the volume of help-wanted classified ads running in Adweek. The volatility of prior months has given way to a downturn encompassing all regions. That’s what happens when lots of companies are fully staffed.

SOLIDARITY FOREVER: 10,000 Points of Light
It’s easier to have a robust sense of investor confidence when you’re not an investor. That way, you can admire the spectacle of a five-figure Dow without putting your own money at risk. Last month, as the Dow was nearing 10,000, a Gallup poll asked people whether they’d be more likely to buy a big-ticket item if the market reached that milestone. Among respondents who own stocks, 22 percent said they would. But the “yes” vote was higher (25 percent) among adults in general–i.e., including those who get no direct benefit from a rising market. Evidently they’re so delighted to see their fellow citizens being enriched that it inspires them to make major purchases. In an era when people make conscious choices of lifestyle, this needn’t surprise us. After all, why feel class solidarity with the lumpen losers when you can identify with successful investors? (A topic for another time: Compared to earlier economic booms, is this one provoking less envy among those who aren’t getting rich themselves?) There are limits, though: Wary of being the last ones to buy into an overpriced market, two-thirds of the nonstockholders surveyed said a 10,000 Dow would not induce them to start investing.

MIXED BLESSINGS: Getting and Remitting, Something Fishy in the Net, A Gut-Level Appeal, Etc.
With all due respect to frogs, penguins and dogs, men persist in populating their beery reveries with fetching women. And if one of the fetching women is fetching them a beer, so much the better. Major brands are reluctant to indulge such tastes these days, but the aptly named Arrogant Bastard Ale seems to see the task as a sacred mission. “The ultimate imbibement experience occurs only in a state of perfect relaxation,” says copy accompanying the photo in which the man is attended by a pair of stein maidens. “Pursuit of this ambition is the noblest cause. Anyone who tells you different is a soul-less infidel.” Big Bang Brand Communications of Del Mar, Calif., created the ad for Stone Brewing of San Marcos, Calif.

People are willing to make money via the Internet, but not so willing to give it up. Consider recent reports by two firms that track electronic commerce. A study by Forrester Research of Cambridge, Mass., says online investing is making the transition from a cyber-geek niche to a mainstream phenomenon. “During 1998, the number of North American households investing online nearly doubled, reaching just under 2.4 million by the start of 1999,” says the report. It predicts that 1.9 million more will join in the fun by the end of next year. “Most of these new investors will come from mainstream households.” When it comes time to fork over a share of the profits to the IRS, though, people don’t care to do it via the Internet. New York-based Jupiter Communications reports that “online tax preparation and filing face abysmally slow consumer adoption rates.” The moral drawn by Jupiter: for a “low-frequency” activity like tax filing, consumer behavior is slow to change.

Or maybe they just don’t want to be eaten by sharks. Honors for the Most Sanguinary Image in a High-Tech Ad go this week to an online outfit called Go2Net, which offers everything from games to investment services. Hadley Green of Seattle created the ad. We assume they’ll leave this one out of their portfolio if they ever pitch a beach-resort account.

Anyone who doubts that religious belief is pervasive in American culture should take a look at Newsweek’s polling on the topic. As you might expect, the survey (excerpted in the March 29 issue) found a majority of Christians believing that “Jesus Christ will return to earth within the next 1,000 years.” The surprise is that 20 percent of non-Christians believe the same thing. Similarly, 32 percent of the non-Christian respondents believe that Jesus rose from the dead.
It’s not exactly that Scotch is dietetic. But an ad for J&B is onto something as it addresses the youngish consumers who tend to look toward Milwaukee rather than Inverness when they feel like an adult beverage. (Anyway, tartan always looks so slimming.) J. Walter Thompson of New York is the agency for the effort. But it got some creative assistance from the managers of a liquor store in Madison, Wis., where inventive homemade posters for the shop’s weekly specials caught the big agency’s far-seeing eye.