Heroics: Preferring A Rail-Splitter To A Hair-Splitter
How will history remember Bill Clinton? Among other things, as Howard Cosell’s successor. In a poll by American Opinion Research, Clinton won in a landslide when Americans were asked to name the person they’re most tired of seeing, hearing and/or reading about. (The runner-up was–who else?–Monica Lewinsky.) When the Princeton, N.J.-based research firm asked the same question 10 years ago, Howard Cosell topped the list. On the other hand, Clinton also came in a more than respectable sixth place when people were asked to pick their “greatest American hero.” Colin Powell, in fifth place, was the only living soul to outrank Clinton. Abraham Lincoln was the top vote-getter, followed by George Washington, Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. Lincoln is a perennial favorite, but one suspects that Lincoln-esque integrity looks especially good to us these days. And speaking of sex, who do Americans regard as the sexiest entertainament celebrities of the day? Female respondents conferred that status on Mel Gibson, while men opted for Demi Moore. (The top choices 10 years ago were Tom Selleck and Linda Evans.) And who’s the entertainment celeb you’d most like to meet? Bill Cosby topped the list–just as he did in the poll conducted 10 years earlier. Considering how rapidly our pop culture cycles through celebrities and consigns them to has-been status, Cosby’s staying power is remarkable.

Ambitious Kids: They Don’t Know Better
Given the news out of Washington in recent months, it’s remarkable to find that 13 percent of kids age 8-12 would still like to be president when they grow up (or when they fail to grow up, as the case may be). The finding comes from an informal poll conducted among kids attending SeaWorld and Busch Gardens. Kids’ yen for the White House may stem from a mistaken belief (held by 33 percent of them) that the president earns more money than famous pro athletes or entertainers. In any event, higher numbers of kids preferred to become famous athletes (24 percent) or movie/TV stars (17 percent). As you can see from the chart below, kids were surprisingly prudent when asked what they’d do with a $100 windfall.

On The Lot: It Can Be A Long Road To The Car Of Your Dreams
If people are more satisfied with their cars than they are with their political leaders, perhaps it’s because they put more effort into choosing the former than the latter. A study conducted by the NPD Group for Advo finds that new-car buyers take an average of six weeks to make a purchase once they’ve begun the process. And how do they go about making up their minds? The report says 41 percent compare advertised prices, while 37 percent listen to personal recommendations. Ten percent gather information via the Internet. Just 15 percent say that ads and commercials first clued them into the car they ended up buying.

It’s not as though consumers begin their shopping with open minds. Indeed, 58 percent say they know in advance what brand of car they want. Another 32 percent start out with two or three possibilities in mind. Nor do they waver once they’ve begun visiting dealerships: 85 percent of respondents say they buy one of the makes they’d first considered. Showing even more self-discipline, two-thirds say they don’t end up splurging on options they hadn’t planned to buy.
According to the report, the average length between car purchases is five years. But that figure conceals variation by age group. Among purchasers in the 18-34 bracket, 35 percent buy a car every three years or less, while that’s true for 19 percent of consumers 35 and over. Does this mean younger buyers are more satisfied with the purchase process? On the contrary: 68 percent of the younger people termed themselves “very satisfied” with the dealership where they bought their new car, versus 77 percent of the 35-44-year-olds and 94 percent of those 55 and over.

Robust Teens? Getting Their Vegetables One Way Or Another
The good news: 64 percent of teenagers get vigorous physical activity three or more times in a typical week. The bad news: That exercise might consist of running down the block for cigarettes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued its latest report on “youth risk behavior,” based on 1997 polling of high school students. It finds 36 percent of respondents saying they smoked cigarettes in the month before being questioned. At the healthier end of the spectrum, 29 percent had five or more servings of fruits and vegetables on the previous day. And if health officials would just loosen up and count chewing tobacco as a vegetable, this figure would be even higher, since 9 percent of teens said they had used smokeless tobacco during the previous month.

Service! Service! Anyhow, Lots Of People Enjoy Complaining
The so-called service economy continues to be distinguished by lousy service. At least, that’s how many consumers feel. A survey by Yankelovich Partners finds 66 percent of respondents agreeing with the statement, “Service people I deal with don’t care about me or my needs.” Discontent with corporations is particularly sharp: 67 percent of respondents subscribe to the statement, “The giant companies have gotten too big to give reliable service to their customers.” (Giant companies engaged in recent mega-mergers, take note.) Is there an objective basis for these subjective complaints? The answer varies from case to case, of course. But one wonders whether the strong economy has given consumers a sense of entitlement that sets them up to feel dissatisfied. After all, prosperity makes people want to be pampered, even when the prices they’re paying don’t justify such red-carpet treatment. In this regard, it’s intriguing that 89 percent of respondents say “the prices they pay entitle them to the highest level of customer service.” In fact, prices for most things have been conspicuously stable in recent years as competitive pressures have dissuaded companies from raising them. Unable to adjust price tags, more than a few companies have made ends meet by scrimping on service. Rather than relish the bargains they’re getting, though, consumers want solicitous service as well. The ingrates!

Easy Bovine: Agency People Do The Darndest Things
When Cramer-Krasselt’s Phoenix office decided to advertise single-serving milk by showing a cow on a motorcycle, cows were readily available. But the agency still needed a motorcycle and driver. So its senior vp/general manager, Brian Landauer, was pressed into service with his Harley. He donned full leather and a helmet for a shoot that took place in 114-degree heat. And what have you done lately to keep a client happy?

Mixed Blessings: Numbers To Live By, Active Grandparents, Etc.
Inflation is rampant in this season’s Major League home-run totals, while disinflation is the specter that now spooks Wall Street. If you combine these two bits of information, is it not obvious that Alan Greenspan should have been appointed Commissioner of Baseball?
Connoisseurs of oddball statistics (genuine or otherwise) will enjoy a new billboard for Kenneth Cole watches. And New York pedestrians will be pleasantly surprised to learn, by inference, that a majority of New York motorists have managed to pass a driving test. Who’d have guessed it? But it’s not as though bad driving disqualifies one from becoming a Cole customer. As another ad in this series informs us, “3 out of 5 car accident victims wind up in suits.” Among other pseudo-statistics in the campaign (created in-house): “4 out of 5 tourists looking for SoHo are in it” and “65 percent of Americans have more success making their outfit work than their marriage.” If the numbers don’t always seem pertinent to a decision about buying (or not buying) Cole’s wares, one of them is highly motivating: “You are on a video camera an average of 10 times a day. Are you dressed for it?”
Amid caber tossing, bagpipe squeezing and haggis chewing, how can a microbrewer draw attention to its Scotch ale? That was the quandary facing Pyramid Ales as it sought to make its presence felt at this summer’s Pacific Northwest Scottish Highland Games and Clan Gathering near Seattle. Shrewdly reasoning that the kilted and unkilted alike would be seeking a restroom at some point during the festivities, Pyramid offered a suitable variation on the standard “Men” and “Women” signs. (Cole & Weber of Seattle created the ad.) If any confusion ensued, it probably went unnoticed by the “pint-guzzling Scots” addressed in another Pyramid ad.
In case you missed it, yesterday was Grandparents Day. So we were told by a communiquƒ from the Census Bureau, which assembled a batch of grandparental facts for the occasion. Most notable among these: According to data for 1997, the most recent available, 2.4 million U.S. families were maintained by grandparents who had one or more grandchildren living with them. Lest the word “grandparents” evoke an image of white-haired dotage, note that 55 percent of the grandmothers and 47 percent of the grandfathers were under age 55. Indeed, 19 percent of the former and 15 percent of the latter were under 45. In all, 3.9 million children lived in a home maintained by a grandparent, with two-thirds of those households also including one or both of the child’s parents.
One nice thing about having the federal government around is that it makes folks less paranoid, comparatively speaking, about other institutions. Consider an online poll by a Webzine called IntellectualCapital. Asked to cite “the biggest threat to your privacy,”
75 percent of the participants pointed to Uncle Sam, while 13 percent chose “business interests” and just 4 percent picked the Internet.
In more innocent times, corn growing “high as an elephant’s eye” marked the outer range of agricultural exaggeration. After decades of ads for herbicides, though, such an image would scarcely raise an eyebrow. A new campaign for Bayer Corp.’s Axiom herbicide parodies the wild flights of fancy to which the category’s advertising is prone. The brand creates a useful niche for itself as the herbicide that doesn’t promise more than it can deliver. In short, it’s the herbicide “that also controls skepticism.” Valentine Radford of Kansas City, Mo., created the series.