A Lucky Thing, Too
The Winter of Consumer Discontent
Good news: The American Customer Satisfaction Index has declined for the third year in a row. Actually, the folks who assemble the index–sponsored by the University of Michigan Business School and the American Society for Quality–think it’s bad news that consumers perceive a deterioration in the quality of goods and services. One economist warns that repeat business will be imperiled if satisfaction doesn’t improve. That would, indeed, be a rational response by consumers. But since when are they rational? One could argue that consumer dissatisfaction is the sine qua non of economic growth. If people were satisfied with what they bought yesterday, they wouldn’t rush off to replace it tomorrow. Or are we to believe they’d prudently save their money if they didn’t see a worthy place to spend it? Please. Advertising can claim its share of credit for fomenting such discontent–even, perhaps, for prodding people to raise their standards in ways that make them feel the things they buy aren’t up to snuff.

Happy Old Year
Adding Up Adweek’s Classified Ads for Jobs
The market for jobs in advertising, marketing and media remained strong throughout 1997, judging by the volume of help-wanted ads in Adweek. And the East, of all regions, emerged as the powerhouse driving the national totals upward.

It’s Personal
Pie of the Week
A study by InfoCom and the Personal Communications Industry Association finds the world at large going wireless.

Mixed Blessings
Cutting Remarks, A Superior System, Rites of Spring, Etc.
It must be a bit nerve wracking to create ads for a client who’s got a scalpel in his hand. But one agency manages to laugh its way through the experience in a campaign for a plastic-surgery clinic in Louisiana. Advertising for medical services generally tries to soothe the potential patient–as well it might–but the bedside manner of this series is decidedly brusque. A fellow who tries to pass off his waistline protuberances as “love handles” is ordered to “Get a grip,” while a women is advised there’s nothing amusing about laugh lines. The agency for the series is a/k/a Advertising of Lafayette, La.

As another Super Bowl rears its helmeted head, people in advertising aren’t the only ones who expect to find the commercials more entertaining than the game. That opinion has won many adherents among the general public, thanks to a history of memorable spots and forgettable games on Super Sunday. Let’s think about this. The contending teams get to the big game by winning a succession of playoffs, and they’re glad just to be there. The commercials get to the big game because companies spend tons of money to put them there, and heads will roll if the spots are losers.
Is it any wonder the commercials are better than the game? The moral is obvious: Let’s scrap the cumbersome playoff system and open the Super Bowl to the two teams that bid the most money for the privilege of playing. Then we’d see some excitement on Super Sunday, and not just during the time-outs.

Most of us will go to our graves wishing we’d done some things differently. For example, we may wish we’d taken the time to drink more beer–or, at least, better beer. Urging consumers to “drink good beer while you can,” an Arkansas brewer builds its ad campaign around the prospect of a sudden demise. In addition to an execution that muses on your likelihood of being hit by a bus, the ads brandish such perils as spontaneous combustion and killer bees. Well, one man’s death threat is another’s unique selling proposition. Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods of Little Rock created the campaign for Weidman’s Brewery.

Beer isn’t the only category to see death as a handy tool for cutting through the clutter. The Seattle Mariners, who’ve spent some seasons dead in the water, are getting into the act as well. The “baseball heaven” one can enjoy (while still alive and kicking) is spring training. An ad via Seattle agency Copacino Creative is promoting a travel package to the team’s camp in Arizona. Granted, one doesn’t envision the classic “field of dreams” as a grove of saguaros. But for fans accustomed to the claustrophobic bunker where the Mariners play their home games, any field with fresh breezes and sunshine must seem like heaven on earth.

If the elaborate kitchen gadget you got for the holidays is already gathering dust, it’s not the only one. In a poll of its readers, Bon Appƒtit asked them to identify the least-used gizmos in their kitchens. The ice-cream maker was the top vote-getter, cited by 29 percent, with the pasta machine running second (19 percent). At the opposite end of the spectrum, the food processor ranked as the favorite small kitchen appliance, cited by 40 percent of respondents, with the coffee maker (25 percent) as runner-up.