QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Do You Consider Yourself Ambitious?
Even in the land of the self-made man, ambition has an ambiguous status. We admire the hardy souls who start with nothing and become captains of industry. But we look askance at the grasping sorts who sacrifice all else to the gods of success. Are we willing to pin this scarlet A on ourselves? In a survey conducted for Adweek by Alden & Associates, a marketing research firm based in Hermosa Beach, Calif., respondents situated themselves on a spectrum from 1 to 5, with 1 as “not at all ambitious” and 5 as “very ambitious.” The overall average: a pretty ambitious 3.8. Slacker mythology notwithstanding, 71 percent of 18-24-year-olds gave themselves a 4 or 5, as did 77 percent of the 25-34s. That figure fell to 66 percent among the 35-49s, 65 percent among the 50-64s and 57 percent among those 65 and older. The gender gap was narrower than one might suppose, with 71 percent of men and 63 percent of women on the ambitious end of the spectrum. Playing true to form, 88 percent of respondents with incomes over $100,000 saw themselves as ambitious. One intriguing tidbit: 54 percent of respondents said their level of ambition has changed in the past three years, with 55 percent of those saying it has risen.

FAT CHANCE: Awaiting a Dietary Guide to the Perplexed
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but a lot of knowledge may not be so helpful, either. In a study conducted by the research arm of Creamer Dickson Basford of Irvine, Calif., 80 percent of respondents referred to themselves as “knowledgeable” about nutrition – up from the 61 percent claiming that label in 1994. But, as you can see from the chart below, such knowledge doesn’t save them from bafflement in the face of conflicting news reports on health and nutrition. The unanswered question is whether people mind being baffled, since this confusion gives them an excuse for their continued gluttony. After all, while reports do differ on the efficacy of this or that regimen, there’s a clear consensus of expert opinion that people should reduce their intake of chicken-fried steaks, milkshakes and other fatty treats – which is precisely what they don’t feel like doing.

HAPPY NEW YEAR: Adding Up Adweek’s Classified Ads for Jobs
The state of the job market in advertising, media and marketing is strong, judging by the volume of help-wanted ads in Adweek. If the market seemed to lose a bit of steam in the latter months of 1997, it’s looking robust in the new year. In fact, January had the highest help-wanted lineage of any four-week month since the dawn of classifieds time, with multi-job ads on the agency side driving up the totals.

ALL SINGING, ALL TACKLING: And to Be in San Diego Was Very Heaven
For connoisseurs of live performance, Jewel’s rendition of the national anthem at the Super Bowl must have been a double dose of bliss. In a reader poll by Ticketmaster’s Live! magazine, Jewel was voted best female vocal performer of 1997, surpassing Celine Dion and LeAnn Rimes. And the Super Bowl ranked as best sports event, topping the World Series and NBA finals. Elsewhere in the poll, Garth Brooks won as best male vocalist, beating Elton John and the artist currently known as the artist formerly known as Prince. Despite the near-deification accorded him after his Masters title, Tiger Woods ranked third in the tally for best male athlete, behind Michael Jordan and Barry Sanders. Other winners: Jackie Joyner-Kersee as best female athlete, Disney on Ice as best family show and the Rolling Stones as best musical group.

MIXED BLESSINGS: Herd on the Street, Well-to-Do Malcontents, High-Brow Wimps, Etc.
Even the newsiest scandal can generate just so much material in any given day. So as l’affaire Lewinsky has unfolded, cable channels and broadcast outlets have taken up some of the slack with reaction from the proverbial man on the street. And a sorry spectacle it has been. The man on the street (who, of course, is often a woman) has not permitted the paucity of hard facts to prevent the most confident assertion of opinion on all sides of the controversy. People often can be heard parroting one party line or another, intoning the cant of others as if it were their own insight. They slip into the self-important manner they’ve learned from talking heads on the nightly news, but without the mastery of basic fact needed to make it palatable. (A word to the wise: Don’t pontificate if the same newscast will soon be showing the pontiff himself, as was often the case when this crisis began.) Listen to enough of the man on the street and one begins to feel that our democratically elected leaders aren’t nearly as bad as they might be. Now, how’s that for a scary thought?

Honors for Best Hairdo in a Newspaper Ad go this week to the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. Readers whose career paths have meandered in similarly eccentric fashion will appreciate the campaign’s light touch. (Gabriel Diericks Razidlo of Minneapolis is the agency.) Emblematic of the financial analyst who yearns to be a baker, another ad in the series shows a pie chart consisting of a real pie.

How well-heeled must you be to feel you’ve made it? Yankelovich Partners recently examined a population segment it calls “Secures”: median household income of $75,000, investible assets of $192,000 and “heavy involvement” in their financial planning. Asked whether they feel they’ve “achieved the American Dream,” a less-than-landslide 69 percent said they do. That leaves a lot of insecure Secures, doesn’t it? By comparison, 43 percent of respondents in the total population feel they’ve achieved the dream. The study also calls Secures “information-hungry.” Nonetheless, just 64 percent of them say they read a newspaper each day. Are the rest too cheap to spend the 50 cents?
It’s generally considered bad form for an advertiser to cast aspersions on its most loyal customers. But if an ad is funny enough, readers ought to cut it some slack. Case in point: an ad for the Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago. It doesn’t disparage theatergoers in so many words, but one can infer that devotees of the stage are not regarded as the sort to sweep women off their feet – at least, not compared to the brutes who hang out in bars. We trust neither party will take offense. And we doff our top hats to Cramer/Krasselt in Chicago for identifying the target market of guys who fear their girlfriends will be swiped. Of course, cads who wish to dispense with no-longer-wanted women will be inspired to take them to pick-up bars at the earliest opportunity.

You know this cyberspace thing is going mainstream when its typographical quirks start turning up in midriffs. We’ve spared you another execution in which a pierced tongue houses the dot. Miami agency Crispin Porter Bogusky created the series for Cox Interactive.