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Takes

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WHAT MATTERS MOST?: Luxuriating in the Simple Pleasures of Life
No one would accuse Americans of being an ascetic lot. While the ›90s somehow escaped the ˜decade of greed" tag affixed to the ›80s, the later period yielded an even morespectacular display of spending. (If you haven›t seen your copy of Voluntary Simplicity lately, perhaps it›s under the new DVD player.) Still, people rank material possessions low in the hierarchy of what counts in their lives. A survey by Taylor Nelson Sofres Intersearch confirmed that tendency when it presented a menu of choices and asked American to cite the two that ˜matter most in life." The top picks were ˜to have a happy family life" (picked by 50 percent of respondents), ˜to live in freedom" (34 percent), ˜to have good health" (30 percent) and ˜to be faithful to my religion" (23 percent). Just 8 percent chose ˜to have a good standard of living." Likewise, when people were asked to pick the two things that matter least in life, the ˜good standard of living" was the top vote getter (25 percent). Cynics will see this as hypocrisy„a payment of lip service to loftier values by people who are fixated on getting and spending. But the issue is more intriguing if we take the respondents› self-analysis at face value. Let›s suppose Americans sincerely do value material possessions far less than the intangible joys in life. We must then wonder why they work like dogs to afford these things. (A recent cover story in U.S. New & World Report dubbed Americans ˜World-class Workaholics.") Might it be that people are best able to enjoy family, freedom and religion when their material desires are sated? While we tend to think of conspicuous consumption as being at odds with nonmaterial satisfactions, perhaps a glut of the former predisposes us to want more of the latter„and to value it all the more highly.

GORE VS. BUSH: Pick Your Pitchman
With Bob Dole serving as precedent rather than president, will the also-rans in this year›s race for the White House end up as product pitchmen? Don›t bet against it. This prospect naturally leads one to wonder which of the current frontrunners would fare better in that role. To shed light on the matter, Adweek commissioned a poll by marketing research firm Alden & Associates of Hermosa Beach, Calif., in which Americans were asked, ˜Who would make a more believable commercial spokesman: Al Gore or George W. Bush?" Bush won easily, pulling 63.3 percent of the vote. The Texas governor polled most strongly in the Mountain and Midwest regions and least well in the Great Lakes states and the South. Which brand might wish to enlist Bush should he be available after the votes are counted in November? In light of his oft-cited malapropism in referring to the Greeks, he›d be a natural for Grecian Formula.

A GRAND FINALE: Adding Up Adweek›s Classified Ads for Jobs
The market for jobs in advertising, media and marketing finished 1999 with a flourish, to judge by the volume of help-wanted classified ads running in Adweek. It was a fitting end to a year of vertiginous ups and downs. As in previous months, December was replete with high-tech jobs. For those of you who enjoy nothing more than a nice regression to the mean, the full-year data will be especially pleasing. The gaudy highs and lows we›ve seen from one month to the next have somehow managed to leave five of six regions within spitting distance of the totals they posted in 1998.

REAL CARDS: Agencies› Holiday Spirit
What mood characterized the ad-agency business as 1999 drew to a close? To answer the question, we undertook a close textual/visual analysis of the holiday cards sent to the Takes section. This highly unscientific study tended to confirm suspicions that agency people are a bunch of wiseacres. A plurality of cards (40.5 percent) fell into a category we designated Meant to be Funny, easily outnumbering those classified as Sincere (28.6 percent). Another 21.4 percent were Artsy, while a mere 9.5 percent were Brazenly Self-Promotional. Among cards Meant to Be Funny, 64.7 percent actually were funny. West & Vaughan of Durham, N.C., used Rudolph›s mounted head as the visual element in its ˜Season›s Greeting from The South." FJCandN of Salt Lake City sent a Holiday Chain Letter. The idea was to spread the agency›s greeting far and wide while FJCandN itself would hold its holiday-greetings expenses to just $4.77, ˜plus the labor of one grossly underpaid art director." A card from Goldberg Moser O›Neill of San Francisco promised to ease recipients› Y2K fears by means of ˜a small computer chip which will play for you the familiar and comforting New Year›s Eve song, ™Auld Lang Syne.› " When activated, however, the chip instead played ˜Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

KEEP THE CHANGE: For Better or Worse
Maybe they›ve heard too many Springsteen songs too many times. Whatever the cause, New Jersey adults have their doubts about rock ›n› roll. The chart below excerpts the findings of a Star-Ledger/Eagleton-Rutgers poll in which Jerseyans were invited to praise or dispraise various developments of the 20th century. It›s no surprise that lots of adults see rock ›n› roll as a blight, but it›s striking that a plurality considered the genre merely insignificant. Few respondents felt that way about the computer„a technology whose favorable rating easily exceeded that of television. The most intriguing numbers on the chart may be the ones relating to the suburbs. People who are otherwise studiously tolerant of diverse manners and morals will readily condemn those who choose to live in the ›burbs. ˜Suburbanite" is as often an insult as a neutrally descriptive term. Among other info-tidbits from the poll: The obvious convenience of credit cards does not prevent consumers from seeing them as a bane of modern existence.