Term Limits For CEOs, Movies Vs. Morals, Etc.

Tired of your company’s long-standing CEO? Clip out this item and slip it under his door. “A consensus among former CEOs suggests that eight to 10 years may be about the right tenure for CEOs in today’s volatile economic and business environment,” says a report in The Conference Board’s magazine, Across the Board. “Many an aging CEO finds that the kinds of companies he was trained to manage no longer exist.” Mandatory retirement ages simplify things, but they can deprive a company of a 75-year-old who’s at the top of his game, while doing nothing about “under-65 executives whose minds are wandering.” Some corporate boards may move to term limits, “in which retirement is based on tenure rather than age.” Among the factors that wear CEOs out: “an insulting business press, impatient stockholders, nosy regulators, meddling boards, middle-management saboteurs.” (OK, we’ll try to be less insulting.)

Unhooray for Hollywood: 59 percent of respondents to a Rasmussen Reports survey worry that Hollywood movies are “lowering the moral standards of the nation.” Among people who are married, the figure is 65 percent; 47 percent of unmarried Americans share this worry. In addition to respondents who think Hollywood is not lowering the nation’s moral standards, the ranks of the unworriers presumably include those who think standards are being lowered and are glad to see it. Hollywooders might argue in their defense that declining moral standards in the nation are dragging down the morals of movies. And they’d probably have a point.

For years, people have joked ruefully about how the Christmas-shopping season starts earlier and earlier. The phenomenon is now extending in the other direction as well. A new report by WSL Strategic Retail says 61 percent of shoppers bought gift cards this past holiday season. While that’s the same percentage as in 2003, consumers purchased 20 percent more such cards in 2004. As a result, says WSL, January has emerged as a new selling season. “More retailers this year had brand new merchandise on the floor before New Year’s, ready to excite shoppers with their wallets full of newly received gift cards.” Will consumer-brand marketers tweak their ad schedules to address these January shoppers? Some of the smart ones will.

They’ve got one of the worst records in the NBA, but it hasn’t stopped the Charlotte Bobcats from bringing lots of swagger to their ads. Fans will know the team has “never lost a playoff game” because it’s never been to the playoffs—and won’t be this year, its first in the league. An ad promoting a game against the New Jersey Nets says the Nets have gone 12,261 days without a championship, vs. 145 for the Bobcats. Noting that the New York Knicks have 2,000-plus more losses than the Bobcats, another ad inquires, “So why are the Knicks favored?” Boone/Oakley of Charlotte created the clever campaign.

Pop culture has not been kind to accountants. They’re derided as “bean-counters,” peering up from their ledgers just long enough to cast censorious glances at the more creative, warm-blooded folks around them. But accountants may get the last laugh—assuming they care to indulge in anything as undignified as laughter. A report from Challenger, Gray & Christmas lists accounting among the fastest-growing jobs for this spring’s college graduates. And it cites a Bureau of Labor Statistics forecast that the number of accounting jobs will jump 15.1 percent by 2012. Earlier this year, a USA Today item said the number of people working as accountants or bookkeepers had risen 2.4 percent in the last three months of 2004, “nearly five times the rate of increase in jobs economywide, according to the government.” It also said accountants “are increasingly able to call the shots when looking for jobs. They’re demanding higher pay, flexible work arrangements and even signing bonuses.” The new Sarbanes-Oxley law, which tightened accounting rules for companies, is widely agreed to have boosted the demand for (and importance of) accountants. Once cultural stereotype catches up with this reality, we’ll doubtless see accountants as the glamorous protagonists of films, novels and commercials.