Mark Dolliver’s Takes

playing vs. praying: Devoting More Quality Time to Ourselves
Conventional wisdom says worship has been on the rise during this premillennial decade. A new study suggests, though, that self-worship has been the real growth category. Comparing how people spent their time in the period 1992-94 versus 1997-99, research by The NPD Group finds a 22 percent drop in average hours spent at religious services. Meanwhile, people spent 7 percent more time grooming themselves in the late ’90s than they did in the early ’90s. (The 51 minutes men now spend on average to “get ready for the day” lags just slightly behind the 55 minutes women spend.) Likewise, they now allot 8 percent more time to exercising. And despite the stock image of a sleep-deprived populace, the study finds Americans now getting almost 8 hours of shut-eye per weeknight (compared to less than 7.5 hours in the 1992-94 period) and a luxurious 8.5 hours on weekends (versus 8 hours). In short, concludes the Port Washington, N.Y.-based research firm, “Americans are spending more time pampering themselves.” If religious deities feel neglected as a result of this trend, they can commiserate with people’s friends and relatives: The research finds a 20 percent decline in the amount of time Americans now spend visiting these near-and-dear ones. Also on the decline is the amount of time people spend attending classes and preparing food (each down 10 percent). Time devoted to “household chores” is off by 2 percent in the late ’90s versus the early ’90s, while time spent shopping for groceries has fallen 5 percent. These declines leave us more time to seek entertainment, whether at home (up 2 percent) or on the town (up 8 percent). All in all, the numbers shed light on that characteristic ’90s lament, “I wish I had more time.” When people spend more of the day on their pleasures and less of the day on their duties, the desire for more time takes on fresh urgency.
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snakes and ladders: Be Phobic–Be Very Phobic
Although wiser heads say we have nothing to fear but fear itself, we persist in getting the willies about other things. Take snakes, for instance. In a Harris Poll on people’s fears, 36 percent of respondents admitted to being “very afraid” of the slithery ones. Runner-up on the list was “looking down from a great height,” cited by 23 percent. Of special interest to airline advertisers: Women were almost three times as likely as men (20 percent versus 7 percent) to fear flying. In fact, women outnumbered men among those fearing each of the dozen items in the poll–including “being alone in a forest” (22 percent versus 4 percent), mice (18 percent versus 2 percent), dogs (4 percent versus 1 percent), and thunder and lightning (7 percent versus 2 percent).
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it’s never done: If You’re Highly Stressed, You’re Probably a Woman
Feeling stressed out? For whatever comfort it’s worth, you’ve got lots of company–much of it female. Polling conducted in 30 countries by Roper Starch Worldwide finds 21 percent of women feeling “super-stressed,” versus 15 percent of men. (The respondent pool consisted of 13-65-year-olds.) The figure rises to 24 percent among full-time working women with kids under the age of 13. By contrast, 17 percent of women who aren’t mothers are highly stressed. Even among single people, though, stress today is a disproportionately female affliction: 17 percent of single women, versus 12 percent of single men, report feeling intense daily stress. Teenage angst doesn’t measure up to the travails of adulthood, evidently, as teen girls were the female cohort reporting the least incidence of super-stress (14 percent). Meanwhile, one might seek a commentary on the state of marriage in this datum: Severe stress is more than twice as common among widows (21 percent) as it is among widowers (10 percent). The gender gap is somewhat narrower (28 percent of women, 20 percent of men) among people who are separated or divorced. The gap is wider among the blue-collar workers surveyed (women, 24 percent; men, 17 percent) than it is among executive/professional types (women, 23 percent; men, 19 percent).
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first choice: What Do Women Want? Try Green Rectangles
Sleep, free time and sex are all well and good. But they can’t compete with money–not, at any rate, among the women who participated in a recent online poll by Good Housekeeping magazine. Given a choice between more money and more sleep, 88 percent preferred the cash. In a contest between more money and more free time, money polled 62 percent of the vote. And it won 73 percent in a heat that paired it with “better sex.” So much for the myth that women are inconsistent. Most strikingly, by a 2-to-1 margin, respondents preferred $1 million to “a guarantee that you’d live to be 100 and healthy.” (One would be curious to see a breakdown of the data showing how 99-year-olds responded to that query.) Women wouldn’t spend this notional money on cosmetic surgery, judging from their answers to another question: “If you could have a face-lift for free, would you do it?” Sixty-three percent answered “no.” And what if, notwithstanding their stated preference for money, the women were given more free time? Offered an extra hour a day, 29 percent said they’d spend it with friends and family, 23 percent would read a good book, 19 percent would work out and 12 percent would sleep. Among other tidbits from the survey: A plurality of respondents (45 percent) cited the “tummy” when asked to choose the “one part of your body” they’d like to change, with thighs (16 percent) the runner-up.
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mixed blessings: That Virtual Addiction, The NFL’s Worst Physique, The Age of Consent, Etc.
How long will it be before we start seeing sales pitches from advertisers promising cures for Internet addiction? In an online poll by PC Computing magazine, 48 percent of participants admitted to being “Web junkies.” Along the same lines, 41 percent of participants in a Harris/Excite online poll answered affirmatively when asked, “Do you think you could become addicted to the Internet?” And 25 percent of respondents to an ABC News poll (also online) already have gone over the edge, answering “yes” to the statement, “I am addicted to the Internet.”

Every fire hydrant has its day. For a dozen hydrants in Madison, Wis., that day was yesterday. As locals learned from a poster promoting the annual Dog Jog, the two-mile course for the run (which raises funds for the Dane County Humane Society) included 12 fire hydrants. And how did that factoid come to light in the first place? Because a couple of creative staffers from the event’s pro bono ad agency, Lindsay, Stone & Briggs, walked the course and counted them. Let’s hope that puts to rest once and for all the myth that research is antithetical to the creative process in advertising.

Men are such fickle beasts. At least, the men who respond to online surveys by Men’s Fitness magazine are fickle beasts. Last year, when the magazine asked men to pick the sexiest female celebrity, their votes yielded a top 10 that included Jenny McCarthy, Tyra Banks, Demi Moore and Cindy Crawford. This time around, none of those women came close to top-10 status. Leading the current roster are Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jennifer Lopez and Jennifer Love Hewitt. And yes, Pamela Anderson Lee does make the cut, at No. 4. Among female celebs pulling a vote or two (but not cracking the top 10) were Martha Stewart, Phyllis Diller and Marge Simpson.

What with vast right-wing conspiracies and the politics of personal destruction, you’d expect both of the Clintons to have aged considerably during their White House years. But a poll conducted among older Americans (average age: 68) suggests the process has been more extreme than one might guess. When asked to name “the most well-known living American over age 65,” 4 percent of the respondents chose the Clintons. Ah, so that’s why oldsters are so forbearing toward the first boomers to occupy the White House. The poll was conducted by the Senior Network, based in Stamford, Conn.

Demonstrating that its attention never strays from the concerns of its menswear-trade readers, Fairchild’s DNR newspaper ran the following headline above a news item last month: “Turkey Earthquake Also Disrupting Apparel Industry.”

This week’s selection as Agency Least Likely to Win an Anheuser-Busch Account Anytime Soon is Boston-based Clarke Goward. Disdain for mega-brands like Budweiser is obligatory among brew-pub habituƒs, and one of the agency’s new ads for Back Bay Brewing adroitly taps into that sentiment. The poke at Bud does not distract the agency from reflecting more deeply on the role beer plays in modern society. Hence the headline on another ad in the campaign: “It seems like it’s getting harder and harder to meet attractive, intelligent people. That’s why there’s beer.”

Need to give a campaign some muscle? Try including a photo of New York Giants
cornerback Jason Sehorn, who leads off Muscle & Fitness magazine’s roster of “Football’s Best Physiques.” Other NFL pros on the list include Tennessee Titans running back Eddie George, Detroit Lions tight end David Sloan, St. Louis Rams running back Greg Hill and Seattle Seahawks defensive end Phillip Daniels. Meanwhile, give the magazine’s editors credit for nerve (if not for good sense) in conferring a Worst Physique title to all 6’5″, 335 pounds of Colts offensive lineman Tarek Glen. That honor might qualify Glen to be a celebrity endorser for any number of weight-loss products or fitness clubs. But you tell him.

Here’s something you wouldn’t guess from the way pop culture trifles with sex these days: The number of Americans who sleep together on a first date (8 percent) is far surpassed by the number who wait until they are married (13 percent). The figures come from an item in Jane magazine that draws on an international sex survey by Durex, the condom company. Of places cited in the article, France registered the highest incidence of sex by first-daters, at 12 percent. Hong Kong had the lowest incidence, at 2 percent. Thailand had the highest number (45 percent) who wait until they’re married to have sex. Mexico was the runner-up in that department (30 percent), while France came in dead last (2 percent). By the way, we’re assuming that Durex is one of the few major consumer brands to include on its Web site a chart listing “Age of Consent in Key European Markets.”

Sometimes sex on the first date is followed shortly thereafter by marriage. An ad for a specialized limousine service addresses potential customers who find themselves in that situation. Another ad in the offbeat series, via Atlanta agency MRA, features the Hummer Stretch below a headline that says, “Enjoy the apocalypse in style. (Now accepting reservations for New Year’s Eve 1999.)” Copy describes the vehicle as “your own 14 passenger bomb shelter on wheels.”
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All hail august: Adding Up Adweek’s Classified Ads for Jobs
The market for jobs in advertising, media and marketing strengthened smartly last month, judging by the volume of help-wanted classifieds in Adweek. Big ads from agencies and new-media companies, running coast-to-coast, helped give the August numbers their uniformly robust glow. Now we know why the folks in the classifieds department were all whistling “Happy Days Are Here Again” last month.
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labor pains: Then Again, Happy Days May Not Be Here Again
There’s nothing like an economic boom to foment worker discontent. In a recession, people are glad just to be employed. When times are good, they have the luxury of feeling resentful that others are getting a bigger share of the spoils. A survey of workers age 18-34, conducted for the AFL-CIO by Peter D. Hart Research Associates, finds ample evidence of this tendency. While 97 percent of those polled said large corporations are “doing well in today’s economy” and 93 percent said the same of top management, just 57 percent believed working families are doing well. Seventy-three percent felt America’s wealth “should be more evenly distributed.” As the chart indicates, there’s plenty of economic anxiety among young workers, especially those who lack a college degree. Note the anomaly, though, that graduates are a bit more likely than nongraduates to fear they won’t have “opportunities for advancement,” so the lumpens aren’t the only disaffected ones. On the glass-is-half-full side of the equation, though, 77 percent of respondents expressed optimism when asked where they expect to be in the next five years. The oddest tidbit from the poll: 2 percent of respondents were “not sure” whether they have a college degree.