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Mixed Blessings

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Second That Emotion, CEOs' Book Lists, Pulp Nonfiction, Etc.
With the gardens of England stripped bare to yield memorial bouquets for Diana, one is reminded that many people have a yen for public displays of emotion. Indeed, they'll demand it from as unpromising a source as the House of Windsor and express bitter resentment when it isn't forthcoming. But the British royals aren't the only cold fish in the sea. In recent years, irony has been the dominant tone of pop culture, advertising conspicuously included. Mass-market brands that used to tug at our heartstrings (or, at least, try to) now affect an air of cool detachment. After all, that's what modern-day consumers want, isn't it? One wonders. When millions of people work themselves into a state over the death of someone whose life had so little bearing on their own, perhaps it's partly because they've been left hungry by the thin gruel of irony served up in music, movies, TV shows, fiction and commercials.

Operating on the debatable assumption that corporate bosses actually read books, Chief Executive magazine recently asked captains of industry to name the books they believe have been most influential on business in this century. In addition to making such obvious choices as In Search of Excellence and the works of Peter Drucker, those unpredictable chief executive officers cited Darwin's Origin of the Species, J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra and Dr. Seuss' Oh, the Places You'll Go.

Nobody ever went broke by tapping into parental guilt, so a Canadian retail chain named BiWay gets into the act with a back-to-school ad via Toronto agency Taxi. Since parents are somewhat abashed at the glee they feel in turning their offspring over to the authorities for another school year, the appeal to protective impulses should strike home. You may be glad that Junior is out of your hair for six hours a day, but you don't want him to be stuffed into a locker.

A marketer who'd "do anything" to make a sale? Now, who's gonna believe a thing like that? Be that as it may, BookWire, a Web-based guide to information on books, is running ads that spotlight various professionals in the industry as though they were characters from pulp fiction. In addition to the Simon & Schuster executive seen here, a Bantam publicist is featured (holding a rose) above a caption that says: "All she wanted was a little attention." If character development were as strong in the books one finds today in stores, the marketing types wouldn't have to work so hard at selling them. The ads were produced by Fred Gates Design of New York.

Honors for Best Use of Soon-to-Be-Devoured Animals in an Ad go this week to Waffle House restaurants and agency Cameron Dilley/Creative of Tampa, Fla. The chain has been serving plenty of meat all along but wanted to be sure consumers didn't typecast it strictly as a breakfast place.