cultural protectionism: Smashing Is Better, But It Won't Work, Either
The headline: "19 Nations See U.S. as Threat to Cultures." Under those ominous words, an article this month in The New York Times told of a meeting in Canada where officials agreed that "Hollywood and the rest of the American entertainment industry threaten their cultures." (The U.S. wasn't invited, though some 40 countries were.) Limits on free trade were proposed to keep the barbarians at bay. A few weeks later, a Times story reported that Afghanistan's fundamentalist Taliban regime had "given the people 15 days to get rid of their television sets or see them smashed by the religious police." The story quoted a Taliban official as explaining that TV and video are "the cause of corruption in this society." Comparing the two accounts of efforts to preserve local culture, one is inclined to give higher marks to the Taliban. It's the more forthright of the two, surely; it doesn't pretend to an open-mindedness it lacks. As for effectiveness, both methods seem futile in the long run. There's no stopping the diffusion of influences, many of them American. What the international culturecrats fail to see is that American culture is less and less American, in the old sense of that term. Increasingly, a multicultural U.S. will be re-exporting materials that came from abroad in the first place.
a wake-up call: Dreamland's Loss Is Cyberspace's Gain
To their elders, teens and Gen Xers often seem dopey and grumpy. But perhaps they're just sleepy. A new Arbitron Pathfinder Study finds 35 percent of 16-29-year-olds reporting they get less sleep now than they did a year ago. Naturally, the statistic has serious implications for advertising aimed at this age group. Many brands cater to teens and Gen Xers with commercials that wrap the underlying sales pitch in a complex pastiche of irony. Is that a sensible way to address people who are half asleep? Chances are, such messages will be unintelligible to much of the sleep-deprived target audience. No wonder kids often seem to view the grown-up world with puzzlement. Anyhow, how are the young folks employing the time they once spent in dreamland? The Arbitron study finds 48 percent of respondents saying they now spend more time cruising the Internet than they did a year ago.
mixed blessings: That Sinking Feeling, Vacation Advice, Al Fresco Ads, Etc.
You know the nation has a bad case of Hollywoodmania when a church rides the coattails of a movie in an effort to fill its pews. Moreover, agency Stoner Bunting of Lancaster, Pa., seems reluctant to claim that going to church is more important than seeing Titanic. But one does take the point that God is more accessible than Leonardo DiCaprio. "It too is a true story of death, survival and love," the copy says of the Sunday service at Wheatland Presbyterian. "Only you don't have to stand in line to hear it." On the other hand, the church doesn't serve popcorn. Another ad in the campaign speaks to people who claim they'd love to attend church but are too busy with chores in the yard. "Grass grows approximately 2.8 inches per week, which means attending church for 1 hour will put you precisely .016666667 inches behind in your yard work."
With the peak summer vacation weeks upon us, people will reveal how well or ill they've mastered the art of being away from the office. The goal is to have your vacation remind everyone that you're indispensable, but not too indispensable. You don't want the office to descend into chaos, since your boss would then be loath to let you take a real vacation next year. But you also don't want to be told on returning to work that a 19-year-old summer intern covered for you effortlessly. The best plan is to have your duties handled by someone who is lower in the office pecking order but conspicuously competent and hardworking. That way, nobody important will care if the poor soul is overburdened by covering for you. At the same time, this person's display of prodigious labor will send a signal that you accomplish essential work when you're around--and everyone will be delighted to have you back.
Sure, indoor stores have the latest fashions. But can they let you bask in the various manifestations of El Ni„o? Some outdoor markets wouldn't have the nerve to put you in mind of bad weather. The Saturday market in Portland, Ore., enhances its aura as a local institution by doing so in a campaign via local agency Grady Britton. Using the distinctive type style of the Pottery Barn, another ad offers this salute to shopping al fresco: "Pottery, yes. Barn, no."
Finally, congratulations to any of you who managed not to get too worked up about Tina Brown's departure from The New Yorker. Your relative composure suggests you've got a life.