Time And Emotion: Anatomizing The Nonexistent Decline In Leisure
Popular wisdom says Americans feel bereft of leisure. As is often the case, though, popular wisdom is at odds with empirical data. A Gallup poll finds 64 percent of respondents "generally satisfied" with the amount of leisure they have. True, the number is down from its historic peak of 76 percent in 1963, but 64 percent is a majority in anyone's book. Why, then, are laments about lack of leisure a familiar refrain? In part, one suspects it's because the people who truly are pressed for time are more mediagenic than those who aren't. The U.S. has never had so many leisured retirees, for instance, but they're not figures of media interest the way harried soccer moms and round-the-clock entrepreneurs are. Still, the notion that we're suffering a drought of leisure probably has as much to do with economics as demographics. Prosperity has given many people the wherewithal to indulge in pastimes that would have been the preserve of a privileged few a generation ago. If you have the money to go para-sailing and winery-visiting and skiing but have time for just one of these activities, you might experience this as a shortage of leisure. In reality, though, golf courses wouldn't be sprouting up like mushrooms if nobody had time to play. For many fortunate Americans, the ratio of their leisure time to their leisure options has declined due to a growth in the latter. Most people, though, have the sense to realize that this doesn't denote an absolute decline.
Act Your Age: Outgrowing Xer Myths
Should it surprise us that Gen Xers are behaving like grown-ups? That's what people do as they get into their mid-30s, and there was never a solid reason to believe Xers would prove an exception to that rule. After all, even baby boomers showed signs of incipient maturity once they reached the halfway point between student discounts and AARP discounts. The chart below draws on Yankelovich surveys of the two cohorts. Do the numbers mean that Xers are more traditionalist than boomers were at the same stage in their lives? Not necessarily. Bear in mind that "traditional standards" hadn't fallen as much into abeyance in 1977 as they have since, so boomers had less cause to wish for their return. As for the Xers, it's easier to be nostalgic for a strict moral regime if you didn't live through it yourself.
Give Me Your Ear: Why Is It So Hard To Listen To Clients?
Few rules of business are more basic: Listen to your customer. Yet, a recurring theme of the study released last month by the American Association of Advertising Agencies is that agency people don't listen to clients. Or, at least, they leave clients with that negative impression.
Of the clients surveyed by the 4A's, 11 percent cited a failure to listen among the most common mistakes agencies make at initial meetings when an account is in play; 18 percent said it's a common lapse at final presentations. Asked what agencies can do "to be more responsive to your needs," 33 percent said "Listen." (The top answer, given by 46 percent, was "Respect the client's viewpoint.") A survey of consultants who handle agency searches put "Don't listen, talk about selves" atop their list of blunders agencies make at first meetings and in second place among errors made in the finals.
Considering how elementary a mistake this is, why do agency people fall into it? One obvious answer suggests itself: At gut level, they don't believe clients have anything interesting to say. If you think the customer is always wrong, then it's hard to force yourself to give his views a respectful hearing. Agency people have internalized the mantra, "The consumer is not a moron." Maybe they need to begin each day by chanting, "And the client is not a moron, either."
Unsuited: Entering The Era Of Casual Monday, Casual Tuesday
If you're about to replenish your supply of formal business attire, hold onto the money. A survey of executives who do corporate hiring finds 42 percent saying that suits and ties will "disappear" from the office. Among those holding that view, 87 percent think the disappearance will occur within 10 years. Obviously, such a trend would depress sales of traditional officewear. But might the triumph of office casual take a toll on nonoffice casual, too? If you haven't been wearing a suit all day, you'll presumably feel less need to change into jeans when you get home. Instead of shifting the whole market to the casual end of the spectrum, the demise of the suit and tie might yield a national wardrobe that's all khaki all the time.
A Moving Experience, The Season Of Lists, For Upscale Mice, Etc.
No wonder so many people get someone else's direct mail. A new Census Bureau report on population mobility says 43 million Americans moved in 1993, the most recent year for which such statistics are available. That works out to 16.7 percent of the population. Still, there are plenty of stick-in-the-muds: 15.3 percent of Americans had lived in the same house for more than 20 years when the data were collected. Among people age 15 and over, the median time they'd lived in their then-current homes was 5.2 years. Warm weather seems to trigger the urge to relocate, with almost half the moves coming in June, July, August and September.
It takes a special product to enlist the endorsement of a villain--and a weaselly villain at that. For cigars, though, it's all in a day's work. Readers will be amused by an ad for Punch cigars (via McCaffery Ratner Gottlieb & Lane of New York) that features the actor best known for his portrayal of the slimy Newman on Seinfeld. And if they're more accustomed to seeing Wayne Knight dressed as a postal worker than as a black-tie bon vivant, that just augments the element of surprise.
Which came first: the chicken or the egg? An ad for Volvo Action Service offers its answer to that age-old question with a photo of baby chicks escaping from a broken-down truck. "Fresh eggs" indeed. The ad's competitive point: "Some road service plans get you up and running quicker than others"--which, of course, means that some leave you down and sitting longer than others. Evidently Volvo's road service will spare an egg hauler from confronting that other great poultry conundrum: Why did the chicken cross the road? Carmichael Lynch of Minneapolis created the ad.
When in doubt, run a list. You'd be hard-pressed to find 10 magazine editors who don't subscribe to that dictum. And the capacious issues of autumn are a logical place for such features. Among recent listings: Life's roster of the "100 Best Things About America Now" includes Vitamin E, the return of swing dancing and the fact that Howard Stern's TV show "is getting trounced in the ratings." At Women's Sports & Fitness, the list of "50 things every woman should know how to do before the 21st century begins" ranges from "Catch a fish" to "Change a car tire" to "Pop a champagne cork." The sidebar on "Top 10 skills you don't need by 2000" includes yodeling and shoplifting. Elsewhere, the Vatican/St. Peter's is runner-up to Mesa Verde on Condƒ Nast Traveler's "Top 15 Monuments," while Sylvester Stallone makes Movieline's list of "The Hollywood 100 Most " as the movie star "most likely to turn out to be the Missing Link."
Honors this week for Oddest Product Tie-in to a Murder Trial go to Backs etc. for invoking O.J. Simpson and Lance Ito. After breezily noting that O.J. didn't get the chair, the ad explains that Judge Ito sat in a Backsaver during the endless court sessions. "Try the Backsaver yourself and you'll know why the trial went on so long." Axmith McIntyre Wicht of Toronto created the mind-boggling piece.
Say what you will about rodenticide ads, it's hard to deny they're usually lacking in elegance. A transit ad for d-Con (via New York's McCann-Erickson) attempts to make up for that with its tony display of the brand. Isn't it nice to know that ad-agency professionals can make just about any product seem appetizing?