Mark Dolliver’s Takes

the god-versus-satan gap: It’s Just a Hell of a Time to Be the Devil
For many moderns, it’s not God who’s dead. It’s the devil. A Newsweek survey last month found 94 percent of Americans saying they believe in God. Significantly fewer–75 percent–said they believe in Satan. North of the border, an Angus Reid Group survey detected a similar pattern: While 84 percent of Canadians believe in God, 48 percent subscribe to the statement, “Satan, the Devil, is active in the world today.” In part, the God-versus-Satan gap reflects people’s squeamish reluctance to believe in evil. In our therapeutic age, we’re more comfortable supposing that nothing can be irremediably bad. Still, the gap also hints at the extent to which a consumer sensibility has infiltrated North Americans’ approach to everything. Since the customer is always right, they take what they want of religion and discard the rest. As in the ’90s vogue for angels–the prettiest, fluffiest part of sacred lore–people gravitate toward whatever’s most fun and least demanding. It’s not terribly surprising to find 84 percent of Newsweek’s respondents saying “God performs miracles.” Indeed, 67 percent have prayed for a miracle, and 48 percent claim to have witnessed one. In the Canadian poll, 70 percent declared their “private beliefs” are more important than “what is taught in church.” Those private beliefs seem to include a preference for sleeping in on Sunday mornings, as 81 percent said, “I don’t think you need to go to church in order to be a good Christian.” If God is holding up better than Satan in the polls, perhaps it’s because the former is the easier of the two to rebrand as a nonjudgmental, inclusive, accommodating kind of guy. In short, a God for whom there’s no satanic counterpart is a deity people can safely ignore when it suits them. And these days, when people hear the term “Supreme Being,” their first reaction may be to assume it’s referring to them.
sleep gap, too: On Food, Sex and Death
Gender gap of the week: Let’s say you’re given a choice between getting (a) more sleep and less sex or (b) more sex and less sleep. Which would you pick? A poll by Family Circle found sleep edging out sex among women, by a margin of 49 percent to 48 percent. Among men, sex won in a landslide of 71 percent to 26 percent. The magazine found a similar disparity when respondents were asked whether they’d rather give up sex or their favorite food. Seventy-seven percent of women would give up the food; 20 percent would sacrifice sex. Ninety-one percent of men would ditch the food; 7 percent would forfeit sex. Perhaps the way to a man’s heart is not through his stomach. As you can see from the chart, women are more willing than men to shun a favorite food if it would spare them a dread disease, though remarkable numbers of men and women alike couldn’t bring themselves to do so. Give me ƒclairs or give me death! Actually, it’s not as though men are less eager than women to stay out of the grave. Sixty-five percent of men said they’d like to live to 100, while 56 percent of women felt the same way.

mixed blessings: The Panhellenic Newton, TV-Free Trauma, Etc.

This must be why there’s not a big push for reform in the financing of dry cleaners’ ad campaigns. In its polling of likely voters, The Hotline found 42 percent saying the president affects their daily lives “a great deal.” By contrast, 4 percent of those polled by the political periodical said their dry cleaner has such an impact. Barbers and hairdressers loom somewhat larger, with 11 percent of voters saying their daily lives are affected a great deal by those experts.

A brand linking itself to the Olympics? Nothing unusual about that–except that most of them glom onto the modern games. How unimaginative of them. Give credit to Fig Newtons for cutting through the clutter (and saving the expense of a sponsorship fee) by basking in the glory of the ancient variety. And what, you might ask, do Fig Newtons have to do with Olympics of any vintage? Plenty! As the headline explains, figs figure prominently in the early history of athletic carbo-loading. Foote, Cone
& Belding of New York created the piece.

A week without television is like a week without sunshine. At least, that’s how it strikes some respondents to an online poll by The Christian Science Monitor. Although a TV-free week would be “a relief” to 53 percent of them, it’d be “challenging” for 32 percent and downright “traumatic” for 3 percent.

Should Bill Gates be seized at gunpoint and exiled to Cuba as punishment for Microsoft’s antitrust violations? Though public opinion has backed the feds in the Gonzalez case, it tends to side with Gates in his tussle with the Justice Department. Among the latest indications of this is an poll in which 23 percent of respondents said Microsoft should be broken up into smaller companies, versus 62 percent preferring to see it stay in one piece. The survey’s younger respondents were more hostile to the Beast of Redmond, with 30 percent in favor of dismembering the company.

It’s time to inaugurate what we might call
Bad-Choice Economics–a field of study that examines the awful ways consumers spend money they’ve saved by getting a bargain on one of life’s necessities. In the high-employment, low-inflation economy of recent years, bad choices must be at an all-time high. Surely the national wealth would be in better hands if responsible companies were able to charge more for their goods and services. In the meantime, an ad for Tri-State auto insurance (via
Follis Advertising of New York) caters to those benighted consumers who want to have the extra cash in their own pockets, however imprudently they might spend it.

reality helps: These Are a Few of Our Favorite Hollywood Couples

Bill Cosby hasn’t had much luck with TV programs since The Cosby Show. But viewers must have fond memories of the Huxtables, the couple Cosby and Phylicia Rashad played on that show. In a poll by Biography magazine, Cosby and Rashad topped the vote when people were asked to name their favorite onscreen couple. The runner-up pair was Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise–a couple offscreen as well as on. That’s also true of the poll’s seventh-ranking couple, the married-with-children Annette Bening and Warren Beatty, while fourth-ranking Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell are a longtime unmarried couple in real life. Perhaps people like the blend of long-term domesticity and three-reel romance they sense when onscreen stars have an offscreen commitment.

what crash? Adding Up Adweek’s Classified Ads for Jobs

What with religious holidays and stock-market gyrations, one might have expected some sluggishness last month in the market for jobs in advertising, marketing and media. It didn’t pan out that way, judging by the volume of help-wanted ads running in Adweek. New weekly records for linage were set in the Southeast, Southwest and West, while the weakest gain of the month (versus April 1999) was 33 percent. As the year-to-date figures indicate, the West is the reliable dynamo of this job market