BIG DEALERS: Buy A Used Car From Bill, Hillary, Ken Or Monica? As all right-thinking people know, it is now our civic duty to put the whole Clinton-Lewinsky matter behind us. Before resuming our construction of bridges to the 21st century, though, let us pause for one moment to address the fundamental question the affair leaves in its wake: From whom would you rather buy a used car–Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Kenneth Starr or Monica Lewinsky? That was the query in a nationwide survey conducted for Adweek by Alden & Associates, a marketing research firm based in Hermosa Beach, Calif. Whatever her future might be in politics, the First Lady has bright prospects in automotive retailing: 40.8 percent of respondents saw her as the best of the lot. Starr can take solace from the fact that more Americans would buy a used car from him (28.5 percent) than from the president (21.5 percent). As for “that woman,” a mere 9.2 percent of respondents would entrust Lewinsky with their used-car dollars. No survey on the scandal would be complete without a gender gap, and this poll had a sizable one. Among women, Hillary pulled 48.7 percent of the tally, with Starr getting 25.4 percent, Bill 18.1 percent and Lewinsky 7.8 percent. Among men, Starr was the used-car champion (33.2 percent), followed by Hillary (29.3 percent), Bill (26.2 percent) and Lewinsky (11.3 percent). One last tidbit: Starr got 36.2 percent of the vote among married respondents but just 18.5 percent among singles. UNIFORM TREND: It’s All The Same To Me So much for individuality (bogus or otherwise) as the motive force of the kids’ clothing market. Now, uniformity gets its turn. As increasing numbers of school districts require the little scholars to wear uniforms, sales of such attire are beginning to alter the economics of children’s wear. A new report by The NPD Group pegs retail sales of school uniforms at $900 billion last year, or 7 percent of all spending on kids’ clothes. And money spent on uniforms is often money not spent on other sorts of apparel. In fact, the Port Washington, N.Y.-based research firm finds that households whose children do wear uniforms spent an average of $104 on school clothing during the first three quarters of last year, while households whose school kids aren’t in uniform spent $185. MIXED BLESSINGS: Forget About Forgiving, The Hound of Hell, Time With the Kids, Etc. To forgive is divine, to be forgiven is hell. At the end of his brief speech following the Senate’s rejection of impeachment, Bill Clinton was asked whether he could forgive those who’d sought his ouster. He replied: “I believe any person who asks for forgiveness has to be prepared to give it.” As a general proposition, that sounds true enough. But it’s hard to imagine Clinton’s opponents being soothed by the spectacle of him forgiving them. By the same token, one suspects Clinton must have mixed feelings about the forgiveness bestowed on him by the American public. (His statement noted that he’s “humbled” by the support he’s received, and how much fun can it be for The Leader Of The Free World to feel humbled?) While it may be worse to be unforgiven, being forgiven is among the most unpleasant experiences a person can endure. Doling out forgiveness is often a pleasure; receiving it is (among other things) a humiliation. It entails a clear sense of who occupies the higher moral ground and who stands in debt to whom. And it is doubly galling when the forgiven person doesn’t believe he did anything so terrible in the first place. If people want this episode to fade from public consciousness, they should keep their forgiveness to themselves. Honors for Satanic Dog of the Week go to the put-upon pooch in a TV spot for Devil Dogs, the Drake’s Cakes confection that’s been around since the Year 1. The dog makes his appearance in full devil drag, complete with horns, red cape and barbed tail. Making the competitive point that “Nothing else is a Devil Dog,” the brand’s mascot (a drake, naturally) chases the imposter away. Campbell Mithun Esty created the spot. Catering to the “extreme sports” ethos of youthful outdoorsy types, some ski resorts toil to convey a daredevil image. The notion seems to be that young skiers and (especially) snowboarders will take their business elsewhere if you can’t promise them a better-than-even chance of breaking their necks. To bring that enticing prospect to life, an ad for the Ragged Mountain resort says its hometown of Danbury, N.H., has “One police officer. One fireman. Eleven paramedics.” Fun place, evidently. Clarke Goward of Boston created the ad. It’s so much more convenient to lose your money if you needn’t drive someplace afterward to bed down for the night. So, an Oregon casino has added lodging to its gambling facilities. To apprise potential customers of that improvement, an ad for Spirit Mountain (via Borders, Perrin & Norrander of Portland) tucks Mr. and Mrs. Diamond into bed for the night, adding the sleep mask and teddy bear for good measure. The nod for Best Caveat of the Week goes to an ad for an oil-delivery service in Framingham, Mass. Companies tend to be blithe in promising to meet “all your needs” in their field of business. But people have some pretty odd needs these days, so it’s best to be careful about what you promise. Another ad in the series (created by the Ingalls agency in Boston) offers this take on the convenience of getting one’s fuel oil from Metro West: “With today’s hectic schedules, it’s hard enough just to keep up with the house work, let alone find time to drill for oil. Yes, gone are the days when you could all pile into the family car and head out to the country for another afternoon of old-fashioned oil drilling.” Gone indeed. A rising tide lifts all boats, it is said. But people in corporate public relations might argue otherwise, at least where their own budgets are concerned. A survey of Fortune 500 companies by New York-based Nichol & Co. finds 22 percent cut their corporate PR budgets in 1998, while 38 percent held such spending flat. Healthy profits could have provided the wherewithal for higher spending, but the study detects a “why spend more when things are going good” attitude. How would harried parents use some bonus free time if it were dropped in their laps? According to an online poll by Sesame Street Parents, a plurality (44 percent) would spend it with their kids, of all people. These are the enviable parents of well-behaved offspring, presumably. Another 38 percent would take the chance to get reacquainted with their spouses/partners, while 11 percent would volunteer in the community and 7 percent would see more of their friends. DAY AND NIGHT: No Immediate Peril Of Sexless Television The president of NBC Entertainment created a stir last month when he said the network aimed to reduce the amount of sexual content in its programming. Those who feared that Scott Sassa’s remarks presage a new Puritanism can take reassurance from research by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. There’s so much sex on TV now, the foundation finds, that it would take years to turn all the couples out of bed. Looking at more than 1,300 shows, the study noted sexual content in 56 percent of them. Just 9 percent of these included any expression of concern about safe-sex practices. Television is at its most brazenly sexual in broad daylight, with 85 percent of soap operas airing sexual material. Two-thirds of network prime-time programs had sexual scenes–an average of five per hour. Though shows with teenage characters are rife with sex, they’re also twice as likely as programming in general to “make some reference to waiting to have sex, safer sex or the risks of sexual activity.” FUN, FUN, FUN: Just Don’t Give a Toy They Can Use to Clout You Good news for the nation’s children: In buying toys for the tots, adults care less than they did five years ago that the items be educational. In a poll by Roper Starch, the grown-ups were given a list of factors and asked to say which are “very important” in a toy. The main draws were that the toy be “really fun and enjoyable” (cited by 82 percent of the respondents) and “safe for the child to use without adult supervision” (71 percent). In a sign of the sissy times, 64 percent were keen on buying “non-violent” toys. Fifty-nine percent wanted to buy toys that are educational, down from the 64 percent seen in 1994’s polling. Adults were also less insistent on choosing toys that could spark a kid’s imagination–55 percent in the current poll versus 66 percent in the ’94 research. WHAT WEB? Shoppers From the Groves of Academe You think college students spend their time discussing the relative merits of the Platonists and the Neo-Platonists? Dream on. Judging by the importance of “word of mouth” in guiding their purchase decisions, they are more likely to be discussing sneakers and CD players. The chart here draws on data from polling among California college students, conducted by Berkeley-based EdVenture Partners during the holiday shopping season. Despite widespread access to the Internet among students, Web sites played a relatively small role in guiding their end-of-year shopping. And few of the students were actually making purchases online in such categories as computers, cell phones, sportswear and home-entertainment equipment. Retail still rules, with 9 in 10 students preferring to buy in brick-and-mortar stores. When it comes to paying for their purchases, 60 percent said they’d use cash or checks and 32 percent were readying their credit cards, with the rest using debit cards.