QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Are You Living Better Than Your Parents Did?
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QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Are You Living Better Than Your Parents Did?
You can sell plenty of things to Americans

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Are You Living Better Than Your Parents Did?
You can sell plenty of things to Americans, but you can’t sell them on the notion they’re victims of downward mobility. In a nationwide survey conducted for Adweek by Alden & Associates, 79 percent of respondents said “yes” when asked whether they’re living better than their parents did at the same age. That’s a negligible change from the 82 percent giving the same answer to that question in polls conducted the previous two years. Among those who answered “no” this year, 60 percent said they’re nonetheless living as well as their parents did. In other words, the Hermosa Beach, Calif.-based marketing research firm found fewer than 10 percent of people identifying themselves as exemplars of downward mobility. Of course, such numbers will make little impression on the pundits who sustain their own living standards by decrying the dispossession of the masses. But as the positive data pile up year after year, such naysayers must argue that Americans are delusional as well as downwardly mobile. Even the youngest respondents, supposedly rife with disaffection, refuse to see themselves as losers relative to their parents at the same stage in liffe. Among the 18-24-year-olds 84 percent answered “yes” to our question, putting them ahead of the 65-and-over contingent (82 percent) and just behind the giddy 50-64-year-olds (86 percent).

PICK A PAIR: Made for Each Other
Operating on the theory that liqueur and polling data are a match made in heaven, Baileys Original Irish Cream commissioned a Yankelovich survey to determine American adults’ favorite pairings in various fields. (Baileys and coffee is one of them, naturally.) Asked to pick their favorite movie couple of all time, respondents gave Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks (36 percent of the vote) the edge over Bacall/Bogart (29 percent) and Winslet/DiCaprio (10 percent). Along the same romantic lines, Fred and Wilma Flintstone (33 percent) were the favorite cartoon couple, with Popeye and Olive Oyl as runners-up (15 percent). As the chart indicates, spaghetti and meatballs rule at the daily dinner table. For an exceptionally indulgent meal, the duo of filet mignon and red wine (37 percent) bested caviar and champagne (26 percent). And 55 percent said they couldn’t go out to a movie without getting popcorn.

Conan the Librarian, Millennial Readiness, Etc.
Don’t they know there’s an economic boom to sustain? While most Americans are dutifully shopping ’til they drop, we must point an accusing finger at women age 25-44 for slacking off. Statistics from The NPD Group show apparel purchases by that population segment have declined 3 percent since 1996, even as overall clothing sales have risen. So much for the old stereotype of women racing from one dress shop to the next. As a result of their recent shirking, women in the 25-44 age group account for a shrinking share of total women’swear sales–down to 35 percent last year from 40 percent in ’96. An executive of the Port Washington, N.Y.-based firm sees “foreboding” in these numbers, suggesting they underscore the need to make the clothes-shopping experience “more compelling” to these important consumers.

Honors for Best Surrogate Goldfish go this week to an ad for Uni-Graphic, an outfit that provides pre-press services. And you don’t even need to feed the little Pantone sample. Another ad in the series (via Allen & Gerritsen of Watertown, Mass.) uses an olive-green Pantone chip to garnish a martini, a task it performs with panache. In light of these stylish ads, it’d be fun to see what the agency could do with a gin account–or, at the very least, a pet-shop account.

Hardly a day passes without disclosure of an improbable secret from some famous person’s past, so one is prepared to believe almost anything. It still comes as a shock, though, to find that a celebrity frequented the library when he was growing up. Yet, that’s precisely what we learn from a campaign created by Boston’s Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos for the Brookline Public Library. “People ask where Brookline native Conan O’Brien got his sense of humor,” says the copy. “We refer them to HUMOR: SATIRE: JOKES.” That should appeal to any kid who wants to grow up to host a late-night TV show. Another ad features Barbara Walters, who had plenty of questions for librarian Mrs. Hooper while attending school in Brookline. That should appeal to any kid who wants to grow up to conduct an endless TV interview with a future Monica Lewinsky.

Y2Kphobia continues to bubble along quite nicely, judging by a Harris/Excite online poll. Forty percent of those participating in the poll said they’re sufficiently concerned about the millennium bug to consider stockpiling supplies. Another 28 percent are not worried about food and water, but they “may take some extra cash out of the bank, just in case.” A party-pooping 32 percent believe the government and private companies have the matter well enough in hand to make such steps unnecessary.

APPETITES: They Don’t Care a Fig But Dare to Eat a Peach
This is the dawning of the age of asparagus. Asked to pick their favorite vegetable, respondents to a reader poll by Bon Appƒtit gave asparagus a clear plurality of the vote (44 percent). In a green sweep, broccoli (21 percent) and green beans (17 percent) completed the top three. The dubious honor of Least Favorite Vegetable was shared by cabbage and cauliflower (18 percent apiece), with zucchini not far behind (13 percent). Peaches were the favorite fruit (23 percent), while figs won an outright majority (51 percent) as least favorite. Asked to cite their “favorite thing to eat out of hand,” respondents gave pizza (21 percent) the edge over cookies (19 percent) and fruit (18 percent). In an indication that organic foods are going mainstream, 66 percent of respondents answered “yes” when asked whether they’ve ever bought organic produce. We’ll pass along additional tidbits from this extensive survey in a future issue.

WOMEN’S WORRIES: The Common Cold Wins a Popularity Contest of Sorts
The great thing about minor maladies is that they take your mind off the ghastly ones. Asked in a Good Housekeeping poll to identify their main health concerns for themselves and other family members, more women cited coughs, colds and the flu (75 percent) than cancer (68 percent). Other health issues looming large in the women’s minds were allergies (cited by 73 percent), weight loss (70 percent) and arthritis (68 percent). While they worried most about kids and husbands coming down with colds and the like, the respondents’ paramount worry for themselves was about losing weight. On the matter of elderly family members, women cited cancer and heart disease/stroke as their chief concerns.