Weight Loss on the Sly, The Trouble With Sex, Etc.

Meet the crypto-dieters—women who pretend they’re not trying to lose weight even as they follow spartan diets. An article in Health says increasing numbers of women are shunning entire classes of food—meat, dairy, sugar, cooked foods, etc. For some, it’s truly a matter of health. “But for more and more women, an obsession with ‘good health’ has a convenient side effect: fitting into a size 2 without appearing like a slave to dieting.” The article quotes one woman who eliminated meat, wheat, sugar, cheese, tomatoes and corn before seeing “the true motives” behind her regimen: ” ‘I thought I was eating for positive health reasons, but it was really to conform to a thin female ideal without saying I was on a diet.’ ” While weight loss can often be a good thing, the magazine notes that a severe diet “may cause more health problems than it solves.”

Dating back to John Cage and his compositions for “prepared piano,” musicians have taken all sorts of liberties with the instrument’s innards. But an ad for VT Industries marks the first time the keys have been replaced by multicolored wood doors. Actually, a note from the agency (Bozell & Jacobs of Omaha, Neb.) assures us the effect was achieved by computer, thus sparing the real ivories.

Advertising and sex don’t mix? So one might infer from a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology. The researchers found viewers of “S”-rated TV shows were less likely to recall the commercials than viewers of unsexual shows. People watching shows rated “V” for violence also displayed poor recall of the spots. In both cases, the programming weakened memory of the commercials “immediately after exposure and even 24 hours later.” What might account for this effect? One possibility is that viewers actually pay attention to sex and violence, “thus reducing the amount of attention they can direct toward other stimuli, such as commercials.” If people are still thinking about sex and/or violence when the commercials come on, they’ll be less apt to think about the spot’s message. The implication, of course, is that advertisers might create a bigger impression by advertising on a show that’s free of sex and violence, even if its ratings are lower than those of racier fare. Similarly, we may wonder whether a spot that uses sex to attract attention is upstaging its sales pitch. If marketers take this study to heart, we can look forward to an era of chaste programming interrupted only by chaste advertising.

Maybe Detroit needs to rethink the whole safety thing. When an online poll by CNN.com asked consumers to pick the safety feature they’d most like to see added to their cars, 2 percent picked built-in child booster seats; 6 percent chose a warning that sounds when you cross the center line; 17 percent cited a low-tire-pressure alert; and 30 percent picked an infrared night-vision feature. But 44 percent opted for a “grenade launcher to get rid of tailgaters.”

Don’t count on female hectoring to keep men in shape. In a poll conducted by International Communications Research for Haggar Clothing, 81 percent of women said they wouldn’t mind if the man in their life added “an extra inch or two around the waist.”

Financial brands that hope to generate good word of mouth might have better luck if the words come from the mouths of fathers. In a MORI poll fielded in Britain, 88 percent of respondents who’d taken paternal advice about finances said they were glad they did. By contrast, 24 percent of those who’d followed the advice of colleagues at work were sorry they’d done so.

Sometimes a triathlon concludes with a brisk workout for one’s abdominal muscles. An ad for a West Virginia triathlon—an annual fundraiser for a local nonprofit outfit—plays off this fact as it recruits participants who are willing to go that extra mile. Stonewall of Marietta, Ohio, created the piece.

If you just won the account of a company that markets sandwiches to computer geeks, you’ll want to know the results of an online poll by Slashdot.org. (The Web site offers “News for Nerds.”) Asked to name their favorite sandwich, chipheads gave a plurality to the club (20 percent). The Reuben (17 percent) and ham and cheese (16 percent) were close behind. A wisenheimer 10 percent voted for “the one in Massachusetts.”

The demonization of tobacco continues apace. A California legislator has introduced a bill to raise that state’s minimum age for buying cigarettes to 21. Is this more than public opinion can bear? Hardly. A national poll by ABCNews.com finds 63 percent of adults favor such a law. Women are more likely than men to do so (67 percent vs.58 percent). People with kids under age 18 are more likely than others to be in favor (68 percent vs. 60 percent). There’s a split by age group, but not a big one: 60 percent of 18-34-year-olds support the notion, as do 65 percent of those 35 and older.

Least promising audience for an ad about estate planning: the 17 percent of Americans who, in a Time/CNN poll, said they believe the end of the world will occur in their lifetimes.