The Bonus Question, Objecting To Ads, Etc.

Will consumers tap into their holiday bonuses to fund next month’s gift-giving? Not unless retailers accept turkeys as payment. A study by Hewitt Associates, a human-resources firm, finds 59 percent of companies don’t give holiday bonuses of any sort. Among the companies that do give them, nearly half “will give employees a gift of food (e.g., turkey or ham).” Just 5 percent of all companies give their employees cash bonuses, with another 15 percent giving retailer gift certificates. As you’d expect, the proportion of companies that give out holiday bonuses has declined in recent years. Such Scroogery isn’t new, though: 45 percent of the companies surveyed have never given bonuses. Some of the companies exhaust their festive spirit merely by throwing a holiday party. The survey found 74 percent of companies planning to host some sort of holiday bash, at a median price tag of some $15,000. If companies aren’t showering their employees with holiday largesse, some are being more generous with their clients and customers. In an American Express survey of small-business owners, 71 percent said they plan to give holiday gifts to customers and clients—up from 61 percent last year and 41 percent in each of the two years before that.

One-quarter of Americans don’t think you should have a job—or, at least, not the job you’ve got now. A Harris Interactive poll, developed in conjunction with the Public Relations Society of America Foundation, asked adults whether various ways companies and organizations market to consumers are “acceptable.” While 74 percent said paid ads for products and services are acceptable, that left a remarkably large minority who think they aren’t. Seventy percent gave the “acceptable” nod to corporate sponsorships (“for example, companies sponsoring sporting events or particular athletes”); 64 percent said “a paid spokesman to promote a product or service” is acceptable; 55 percent said the same of product placement in movies and TV shows. A mere 16 percent said Internet pop-up ads are OK. Despite consumers’ tendency to look askance at marketers’ ploys, there’s not a majority in favor of stricter regulation (see the chart at upper right). One surprise: In polling among executives of Fortune 1,000 companies, the number favoring more regulation of marketing activities (13 percent) nearly matched the number favoring less (17 percent), while two-thirds thought the current level of regulation is just fine.

Volleyball? A survey of college students by Sports Illustrated on Campus asked respondents to say which sort of athlete they find most attractive. Volleyball players won the highest vote (16 percent), edging basketball players (13 percent) and football players (11 percent). The only other sports whose athletes scored more than 5 percent of the vote were softball/baseball (7 percent), swimming (7 percent) and tennis (6 percent). Note that the poll may have an idiosyncratic pool of respondents, though: 48 percent of students answered “yes” to the question, “Have you ever painted your face for a game?”