there’s something about ads: When the Gross Rating Points Truly Are Gross
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there’s something about ads: When the Gross Rating Points Truly Are Gross
Remember when it was startling to encounter the word “butt” in an ad? From our current perspective

there’s something about ads: When the Gross Rating Points Truly Are Gross
Remember when it was startling to encounter the word “butt” in an ad? From our current perspective, that now seems like a golden age of refinement. We’ve since progressed to an era in which ads invoke the lower digestive track in all its functions and dysfunctions–when they’re not alluding to body parts once classed as “privates.” The trend has even attracted notice in the groves of higher learning, prompting a pair of academics at the University of California at Irvine to publish a paper titled “Gross Is Good!: The Return of the Marketing Repressed.” Seeking to explain why “gross-out is in, repellent is attractive, disgust is de rigueur,” the paper reluctantly notes that “offensiveness is effective” in cutting through the clutter. For instance, one can’t help but notice a detergent ad that adds a scratch-and-sniff element to a photo of dirty underpants. Indeed, not only does grossness catch our eyes, it “almost always stimulates a (horrified) second look, a (disgusted) double-take” that augments an ad’s impact. Anyway, the writers (Stephen Brown and Hope Schau) suggest that advertisers feel obliged to keep apace with a pop culture that has gone gross. When the likes of There’s Something About Mary can be a mainstream hit, one can make a case that “marketers and advertisers remain relatively chaste.” And this points to a straw at which the fuddy-duddies among us can grasp: Might there be a point at which gross falls out of vogue because it has become too commonplace to cut through the clutter? One scarcely knows whether to hope for or dread such a turn of events.
their choice: God Among the Girls
Perhaps this year, Time magazine’s Man of the Year should be God.
Evidence continues to point to a religious revival in the country. And no, it does not consist solely of worshiping Alan Greenspan, though one suspects a booming economy does make people more apt to believe in a beneficent deity. Even teenage girls, who can seem an especially godless lot, are getting into the act. A reader poll by Girls’ Life magazine finds 76 percent of respondents saying they believe in God. And it’s not just because they’ve been raised to do so. Significantly, 29 percent of respondents said they’re religiously active even though their parents are not. Likewise, 24 percent say they’ve chosen their own religion.
I wanna: Training Santa to Be More Brand-Conscious
If you’re going to put a lump of coal into the Christmas stocking of an ill-behaved teenager, at least make sure it’s a hip brand of coal. Where kids once asked for a product as present, they now specify particular brand names. Which ones will pass muster in key gift categories this season? A Board-Trac survey, conducted among 12-17-year-olds by the Ponzi Group of Trabuco Canyon, Calif., finds that kids will be happy with Oakley or Ray-Ban sunglasses; Nike, Adidas or Dr. Martens shoes; and Fossil, Timex or Guess watches. Tommy Hilfiger and the revived Abercrombie & Fitch also have hotness among teenagers, according to the research. Though the survey doesn’t say so, one assumes that money still enjoys a cachet among teens.
full up: Adding Up Adweek’s Classified Ads for Jobs
The market for jobs in advertising, marketing and media is in a holding pattern, to judge by the volume of help-wanted classifieds in Adweek. In a sense, this confirms the efficacy of all those ads that ran during the recent boom years: Many companies are now staffed to the rafters and don’t need any more warm bodies.
MIXED BLESSINGS: Yuletide Complaints, Stooges of Maryland, Miserable Music, Etc.
Want to complain about holiday shopping? Get in line. Actually, the lines are what people dislike most. In a survey conducted for MOHR Retail Learning Systems of Ridgewood, N.J., 75 percent of the respondents cited long lines when asked to name their biggest complaints about Christmas shopping. Other major areas of discontent: too few store employees to give assistance, items out of stock and poor customer service. It’s no wonder that some people declare themselves pacifists in the Christmas-shopping wars: 3 percent of respondents said they don’t shop for gifts during the holiday season.
Honors for Best Call to Homosexual Excellence go this week to a postcard publicizing Horizons, Chicago’s gay and lesbian community center. By contrast, the lesbian offering in the series sounds conventional in its outpouring of self-esteem-boosting rhetoric: “You’re a great big wonderful Lesbian, you great big wonderful Lesbian you.” Leo Burnett of Chicago provided the creative thinking for the cards, which are part of a series of ad-supported giveaways distributed by Hotstamp in racks at restaurants, bars and the like.
No question, people would be happier with airline travel if they didn’t have to go to an airport to get it. Playing on that sentiment, an ad for United Airlines (via Fallon McElligott of Minneapolis) compares the carrier’s new terminal at O’Hare to the obstacle course people have come to expect at Chicago’s main airport. Frequent business travelers are so accustomed to being depicted as indomitable road warriors that they may feel sheepish about using an airline terminal that isn’t like boot camp. But they’ll get over it–that is, unless other airlines’ O’Hare passengers start calling them sissies.
Is Maryland a hotbed of enthusiasm for the Three Stooges? So one would gather from a new spot for the state’s lottery, via Baltimore’s Eisner & Associates. The plot: In her great excitement at getting a scratch-off lottery ticket that depicts the Stooges, an office worker bangs into one of her colleagues. When he voices his displeasure, she gives him the old two-fingered poke in the eyes. Then, whirling around to face another co-worker, she grabs his nose with one hand and uses her other to deliver a downward slap–another bit of classic Stooge choreography. Before the spot has ended, we also see the two-handed ear twist and the windmilling motion with which Moe would simultaneously hit Curly and Larry on the head. And to think that people say there’s nothing sophisticated on TV these days.
If the phrase “rejoice and sing” sums up your taste in music, ads for Checkered Past Records will give you fair warning to take your business elsewhere. In addition to “moody melodies, regretful riffs and languishing lyrics” of a band called The Silos, the campaign spotlights other artists’ “Songs that will stick in your head like an ice pick” and “Little ditties about loneliness, paranoia and manic depression.” As a note from the agency explains (perhaps unnecessarily), Checkered Past specializes in musicians “who aren’t afraid to express their darker side.” But the music isn’t all gloom and doom: In the latest album by Tom House, remarks another headline, “Track No. 4 in reverse reveals messages of love and hope.” Pagano Schenck & Kay of Boston created the ads.
waddling towns: Where the Kitchens Outrank the Health Clubs
The headline calls them “Fat Cities,” while a slightly kinder subhead terms them “America’s Least-Fit Cities.” Either way, according to a feature in the latest issue of Men’s Health, some municipalities stand out for the sheer unhealthiness of their characteristic lifestyles. Based on a formula including rates of smoking, drinking and obesity, as well as environmental factors, the magazine crowned New Orleans as the nation’s least-fit city. Nothing like a combination of good cuisine and bad habits to put a city on the map. The runner-up was Columbus, Ohio, with Milwaukee, El Paso and Indianapolis filling out the top five. In a sidebar, the magazine also named the five fittest cities in the nation: San Diego took top honors, followed by San Francisco, Denver, Seattle and (to the magazine’s surprise) Baltimore.
home bodies: Tracking the Not-So-Wild Gen Xer to Its Lair
Why would a person expect to have more fun in the coming year than he’d had this year? One suspects it’s a case of wishful thinking, more than anything else. And among Gen Xers, those who are married appear to be less wishful than those who remain single. Perhaps the married Xers are in such a state of bliss that they can’t imagine having more fun than they already are. In any case, Yankelovich Partners polling (summarized in the chart) suggests that married Xers are less and less engaged in the wider world as they settle into domesticity. Thus, now that Xers are old enough to be classified as single or married, the latter sort may start to have less in common with their unmarried contemporaries and more in common with their elders who’ve already been domesticated. And this, in turn, should put yet another nail into the coffin of the early-’90s mythology that depicted Xers as a breed apart from the rest of the human race