isolation? yes, please: Enjoying the Peace and Quiet of Cyberspace
Nothing like a little social isolation to brighten one's life. At least, that's the obvious lesson to be drawn when comparing two fresh surveys about how the Internet affects people's lives. A study by the Stanford Institute for the Quantitative Study of Society documents ways in which time spent in cyberspace means less time spent with "real human beings." Among those who spend five hours or more per week on the Internet, 8 percent reported attending fewer social events; 13 percent said they spend less time with friends and family; and 26 percent talk less on the phone with the near and dear. The percentages reporting such signs of "social isolation" rise with the amount of time people spend on the Internet. Most starkly, the study's leader raises the prospect of "more people being home, alone and anonymous." To which one might respond: After a day full of inescapable companionship, plenty of people may love nothing better than an hour of solitary anonymity. And that brings us to the results of a Gallup poll, also released last month, in which current users were asked whether the Internet has made their lives better or worse. The response could scarcely have been more lopsided, with 72 percent answering "better" and 2 percent saying "worse." (The rest said it has made no difference for good or ill in their lives.) If the Internet is reducing their contact with the aforementioned "real human beings," the respondents seem more than willing to live with it. Nor, judging by the Stanford study, do people flee the Internet as their isolation persists and deepens. Rather, time spent on the Internet "grows with the number of years a person has been connected." Citing the
popularity of e-mail, those who defend the Internet argue that it doesn't isolate its users. They'd do as well, one suspects, to celebrate any such outcome.
pre-teen idylls: Betwixt and Between
Eleven-year-olds used to be kids. Now they're "pre-teens," as if the stage of life they inhabit is important mainly because of its proximity to teenhood. A study by Children's Market Research and Kalorama Information gives its own twist to this transitional stage in life by dubbing 9-14-year-olds "tweens." How do the youngsters mark time until they achieve the status of full-fledged teenagers? The study finds music to be their favorite leisure-time activity, followed by playing sports and watching television (tied for second place) and hanging out with friends. Music also absorbs the biggest portion of tween money, with CDs/tapes accounting for 47 percent of the cohort's spending. Movies were the runner-up, taking in 26 percent. Tweens are a wired bunch, of course, with 34 percent reporting they spend three to five hours per week on the Internet. That's also where they spend some of their money: Among those who shop online (mostly for music), yearly outlays generally range between $50 and $100.
mixed blessings: Kissing Cousins, Ads That Rock, Happy Self Day, Fitness Boot Camp, Etc.
This week's best use of incest in a golf ad?
The prize goes to the folks at Odyssey Golf, a manufacturer of putters and a subsidiary of the Callaway Golf Co. It seems Odyssey's new White Hot Putter features an "insert made of the same remarkable material as the cover of a Callaway golf ball." In the battle for consumer attention, you're only as good as your next technical innovation (gimmick?) and your latest ad campaign. The innovation: "ball meets ball" on the face of the putter, offering "a soft feel, true roll, and Zen-like synergy." Not bad. Even better: In a print execution for the club maker, the copy reads, "They're practically cousins, so why does it feel so right when they kiss?" Since the goal in golf is to stroke the ball into the hole (using your putter), is it a stretch to sell the club
with incestuous innuendo? No. If Sigmund Freud were alive today, he'd be teeing off with Tiger Woods in the celebrity pro-am at Pebble Beach. Created by agency Matthews/Mark in San Diego, the Odyssey print and TV campaign breaks later this month.
Once the launching pad of rock groups such as The Cars and J. Geils, Boston has watched Seattle steal some of its thunder and Cleveland grab the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. But Beantown's rock-music scene is still fertile ground. Look no further than Kaos Kards, a new player in the collectible-card category. Instead of featuring sports figures, they push local musicians. The initial 83-card set showcases such Boston talent as Letters to Cleo, The Del Fuegos, Days and The Sheila Divine. It seems Kaos believes in the youthful power of trading cards within a musically inclined audience. Kaos also believes in audacious advertising, hiring a local shop, Pagano Schenk
& Kay, to top the charts. The agency's print campaign, which utilizes regional music magazines, is hilarious. One execution reads: "When baseball players die, their cards skyrocket in value. And musicians don't live nearly as long as athletes." Another: "There's no gum inside the pack. And no, there aren't any cigarettes either." A third: " A testament to rebellion and anarchy. Ordered sequentially and complete with a checklist." Not sure the rock-'n'-roll collector cards will fly, but they may ride--in the spokes of kids' bicycle wheels.
March 7, 2000, may be Super Tuesday, the most important day of the political primary season, but March 7 is also the first annual Self Day. "Your mission is this," write the editors of Self magazine, inventors of the new holiday. "Spend at least one hour doing something, anything, that's just for you Leave the office at 5 p.m.; force yourself to make (and keep!) a doctor's appointment; savor something sweet (home-baked cookies, a good read, a great massage) Mark your calendar. Tell a friend. Start a movement." Though some may call it Self-serving, the idea has merit. We all need to be kinder to ourselves. Life in the ad business is stressful enough, and a couple of home-baked cookies can't hurt. However, on March 7, before you start chomping on the chocolate chips, don't forget to start a movement--vote for the candidate of your choice.
Need to lose a few inches? You could always go the plastic-surgery route--or you could pursue a more extreme course. Platoon Fitness, a Philadelphia-area sports club, offers boot-camp-like fitness programs, coed workout groups that meet at 6 a.m. at scenic outdoor locations. In this print ad for Platoon, conceived by agency Goose in Philly, the copy reads: "Let Dr. Danny Dankowitz help you achieve the body of your dreams. Or get off your lazy ass and do it your freakin' self." One would hope there's middle ground here, perhaps a few laps around a running track and a sensible diet. But if the choice is a nip and tuck
or 50 reps of squat thrusts, well paging Dr. Dankowitz.
is that your final answer? 'Millionaire' Mania: A Show for All Mankind
A Gallup poll conducted during February sweeps found that three out of four Americans (74 percent) have watched ABC's mega-hit game show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Unlike most network programming, which is targeted at specific audience segments, Millionaire appeals to everyone. When the findings are examined along demographic lines, viewership appears to be high across all strata of society. For instance:
- 77 percent of women, compared to 71 percent of men, have watched the show.
- 75 percent of those have attended college.
- 74 percent of those with high-school educations or less.
- 81 percent of those with annual incomes of $75,000 or more.
- 74 percent of those with incomes of less than $20,000 annually.
- 81 percent of those living in the Midwest, compared to 69 percent of those in the East.
- 66 percent of all Americans could name Regis Philbin as the show's host-- that's more than could name Jay Leno as host of The Tonight Show.
Are the questions too easy? The program's insurance company thinks so and has filed a lawsuit claiming the questions and selection process are a sham. Most Americans, however, believe the show is fair-minded. When asked if the questions should be more difficult, less difficult or remain at the same level, 73 percent found them to be tough enough. Interestingly, most people are
content to sit back and watch while others try their luck on the show. When asked, "Have you personally tried to call the contestant line to try out for Millionaire?" only 6 percent said yes. Recently, a friend called the contestant line. Answer three questions correctly and he would advance. Ready? 1. Put these Campbell soups in alphabetical order: alphabet, tomato, onion and clam chowder. 2. Going west to east, list these military cities:
Colorado Springs, New London, West Point, Annapolis. 3. List these dogs in height from shortest to tallest: beagle, chihuahua, mastiff, Old English sheepdog. As that great philosopher Meatloaf once said, "Two out of three ain't bad."
urban legends: For Women on the Go, America's Fittest Cities
With the arrival of the millennium, many people made resolutions to re-invent themselves, or at the very least, work off a few pounds. Health magazine asked the question "Where do women have a leg up on getting in shape?" Then it went about answering it. Using criteria such as natural resources, availability of biking and hiking trails, parks, access to waterways, affordable health clubs and local attitudes, the publication picked America's 10 fitness-friendly cities, in no particular order:
- New York, N.Y.--the parks: Central, Prospect, van Cortlandt.
- Minneapolis, Minn.--cold, schmold; 170 parks and 22 lakes.
- Honolulu, Hawaii--you need a reason?
- Portland, Ore.--200 miles of bike lanes and off-road trails.
- Burlington, Vt.--Ben & Jerry's (oh yeah, Lake Champlain, too).
- Xenia, Ohio--say what?*
- Boulder, Colo.--hiking, biking, rock climbing, skiing, Olympic training ground.
- Santa Cruz, Calif.--surf's up!
- Pittsburgh, Pa.--Trailtown, not Steeltown.
- Austin, Texas--47 municipal pools, bicycle-friendly atmosphere.
* with 50 miles of leafy trails, it's the "most celebrated town you've never heard of."
watt ho! Power to the People
They may change their minds after they've received the umpteenth telemarketing call from an electric utility. For now, though, consumers like the idea of having a choice of power companies, as they soon will in many states. A new survey by the Edison Electric Institute, a utility trade group, finds 68 percent of consumers favor having a choice among power suppliers. On the other hand, it's not an especially informed opinion: All of 5 percent say they're "very familiar" with the subject. Price is the key appeal of utility competition, with half of those polled expecting it will bring lower rates. Forty-three percent believe it will mean wider availability of "green" power generated from renewable resources. And 45 percent expect better "promptness and efficiency" when they need their utility to respond to an inquiry.
it's the brand: Retooling the Auto Industry To Deal With its Customers
One study says consumers have better things to do than dicker with car dealers. Another says car companies have better things to do than build cars. Put those two observations together and you have a likely transformation of the automotive market. A survey by J.D. Power and Associates, conducted among new-car buyers who used the Internet to help them shop, found nearly half saying they'd prefer to buy directly from the company--"even if they didn't save any money." Respondents felt they'd be better able to get exactly the features they want if they bought straight from the automaker. But they also wanted to avoid the "laborious back-and-forth negotiations at dealerships." While automakers couldn't easily jettison the current sales structure, the findings give them a motivation to get closer to customers. And they'll have more time and energy to do so if a PricewaterhouseCoopers forecast is correct. That study sees a "re-deployment of assets," in which car companies farm out manufacturing and focus on "vehicle concept design" and "the consumer's overall experience with their brand." Indeed, they'll function more as "Vehicle Brand Owners" (a.k.a. VBOs) than as vehicle makers. "Consumers are likely to see a broad range of service offers appear as VBOs compete for 'one-to-one' consumer relationships.