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idol speculation: Athletes Aren't as Strong as They Used to Be
When basketball's Charles Barkley appeared in an old Nike commercial to tell us he wasn't a role model, it seemed like an exercise in false modesty. Sports stars demonstrably were role models when it came to consumers' choices of sneakers and other apparel. But it turns out that Sir Charles was anticipating a trend now detected in polling by American Express. The research finds athletes exerting significantly less influence on teenagers' purchases than they did a year ago. Just 18 percent of the teens surveyed--24 percent of boys, 12 percent of girls--said sports figures shape their choices in clothing. That's down from 41 percent of the boys and 20 percent of the girls in last year's poll. What's behind this falloff? The report suggests, plausibly, that shoddy behavior by athletes (including midgame brawls) is eroding their influence. But it also says teens are "turned off by pressure to wear the 'right' clothes"--an opinion held by 66 percent of respondents. That, of course, should be more alarming to marketers than any weakening of athletes' status. It would be easy enough to substitute movie stars or pop-music idols for those sweaty jocks. But if teens started to follow their own inclinations, it would mean the end of civilization as we know it.
super-affluent: Be It Ever So Humble
As a glance at the current consumer-debt statistics will tell you, plenty of Americans like to flaunt it even if they haven't got it. But a survey of "super-affluent" people, conducted for Miami-based ResidentSea Ltd., finds an intriguing subgroup of rich folks whose homes are something less than castles. Conducted among households whose net worth is at least $5 million, the survey asked respondents to put a price tag on the houses they own for personal use. Though the average house cost a cool $2.1 million, 4 percent of respondents inhabit houses worth less than $250,000. Another 9 percent have houses valued in the unspectacular $250,000-499,999 range. Meanwhile, the survey's demographic data suggested that the super-affluent are the marrying kind. Just 2 percent of respondents reported themselves as never married, and 4 percent listed their current status as "divorced."
MIXED BLESSINGS: Two-Wheeled Medium, Choosing Your Poison, Legal Wisecracks, Etc.
If the stock market had stopped climbing a year ago and just stayed put, investors would be impatient for its ascent to resume. But they'd still feel prosperous. Not irrationally exuberant, mind you, but prosperous. Instead, the market kept rising. Now, a fall to the levels of a year ago (which felt so lofty then) seems catastrophic. The much-discussed Wealth Factor led people to spend their paper profits before they'd cashed them in. If the market keeps jolting investors as it did last week, we'll see whether it gives rise to the Poverty Factor, in which people scrimp to make up for the unrealized gains that evaporated when the market fell from its peak.
Honors this week for Most Unusual Media Placement go to a campaign by Saatchi & Saatchi's Toronto office for a race among the city's bicycle messengers. Signs describing the rough-and-tumble style of the Alley-Cats Scramble were affixed to a bike that plainly had been through an ordeal. The bike was then placed where passersby could take in its message. Although mangling things is usually thought to be the exclusive responsibility of agency art departments, we're told a muscular fellow from the mail room was brought in to assist in wrecking this two-wheeled victim.
Why do people buy microbrewed beers? In some cases, the customers are serious beer mavens whose palates reject the blander macrobeers. As often as not, though, the motivation is simpler: "Sometimes you're not in the mood for what everyone else is having." And that's the positioning candidly expressed in an ad for Left Hand Brewing Co. of Longmont, Colo. Clients usually prefer that their ads avoid jocular references to mass suicide, but there are exceptions to every rule. To the extent that people ever felt it tasteless to joke about the deaths of assorted cultists, the statute of limitations apparently has expired on the Jonestown case. The ad was created by Longmont-based TDA Advertising & Design, which presumably won't be pitching the Kool-Aid account anytime soon.
We're accustomed to seeing icons like the Liberty Bell in upbeat, feel-good advertising. In the crabby world of phone ads, though, companies will use just about anything as a weapon to smite their competitors. Thus, the Liberty Bell is transformed into the proverbial blunt instrument as a telecom upstart named Axessa whacks Ma Bell upside the head. "For the past 121 years," copy begins, "Ma Bell's monopoly on the telecommunications industry left customers no choice for local service options." Not hesitating to mix the maternal and the monstrous, it goes on to disparage Ma as a "sleeping giant" who "no longer rules the land." That'll show her. Meanwhile, one would be curious to know what percentage of the ad's readers know what "oxymoron" means. More than a few people will respond to this headline with an indignant, "Who're you calling a moron?" Agency for the effort was Calzone of Lafayette, La.
Personal-injury lawyers rank right up there with advertising people and journalists when pollsters invite Americans to rate their disesteem for various professions. But it's hard to resist laughing at an ad that turns a city sidewalk--crack and all--into a sales pitch for one such lawyer in Houston. Of course, the ad (via Clarity Coverdale Fury of Minneapolis) will perplex people who don't recall the traditional pedestrian rhyme, "Step on a crack, break your mother's back."