Watching Vs. Talking: In Defense Of Unconversational Couch Potatoes It’s the sort of statistic that social critics can be counted on to deplore: 26 percent of Americans spend more time watching television than talking to other people. Only a narrow majority (54 percent) spend more time conversing than watching the tube, according to a survey conducted for Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide by NFO Research. So, should we lament the extent to which television displaces real-life human interaction? Those who abhor today’s media-drenched culture will instinctively say “yes.” Surely, though, the answer should depend on what people are watching and on what (as a consequence of all that tube time) they’re not saying to each other. For starters, day-to-day observation suggests that much of people’s chat is about TV shows–as in the “water-cooler conversation” to which network executives reverently refer. It’s hard to see a great loss to civilization if the unmediated activity of watching displaces the secondhand activity of talking about watching. More generally, while it’s true that TV shows are often tacky (or worse), so are many conversations. Who would defend the exchange of malicious gossip as a more noble pastime than the attentive viewing of House subcommittee hearings on C-SPAN? Look, plenty of people watch too much television. But it’s no less true that plenty of people talk too much. If one activity cuts into the other, we should be just as well pleased. What, Me Economize? Spend, Spend, Spend As economists forecast a slowdown this year in economic growth, are Americans throttling back their spending? Perish the thought. If the boom is petering out, that’s a signal for today’s consumers to get their splurges in while the getting’s good. (Note that the numbers crunchers track “consumer confidence,” not “consumer prudence.”) Fresh data from Decision Analyst of Arlington, Texas, shows people poised to spend vigorously. For example, 38 percent of survey respondents said they plan to buy a new PC or other computer equipment for the home this year. Nearly as many (37 percent) intend to take a vacation costing more than $1,000, while 32 percent aim to buy new furniture and 23 percent expect to purchase a new car or truck. Mixed Blessings: Pick Your Excuses, Draw The Blinds, Etc. Are the people on Team One’s mailing list a weak-willed lot? So one might infer from a New Year’s card sent by the El Segundo, Calif.-based agency. It refers recipients to a Web site (www.99resolutions.com) listing 99 excuses one might give for breaking resolutions. Each excuse has a link to a source of aid. If you click on the one that says, “But I thought beer was a food group,” you end up at the Alcoholics Anonymous homepage. Click on “Exercising is just too boring” and you’re delivered (fully clothed) to the Naked Volleyball homepage. And if you subscribe to the catch-all excuse that “You cannot teach an old dog new tricks,” get ready for a tutorial in dog training from Canines of America. Honors for Best Dressed Models in a TV Spot go to EMM Creative of Bethesda, Md. The schtick: Models sashay down a runway clad in the latest creations from Next Day Blinds, a local retailer. Mere windows never looked this alluring. Give that shop a lingerie account! Few agencies would dress a man in a bra in an ad for women’s bicycling shoes. But Seattle’s Voice LLC does it with flair while stressing that SiDi’s shoes are made specifically to fit the female foot. Do Over: A Redecorated Room Of One’s Own No wonder affluent Americans feel pressed for time: There’s an infinity of things on which to spend their money and a finite number of hours in which to spend it. Fresh evidence of this quandary comes in the form of a survey conducted among well-to-do households for Architectural Digest. As you can deduce from the chart, redecorating/remodeling is a task that’s never done. Finish one room and another beckons. Just 10 percent of respondents said they plan no such projects for the next year. Does advertising ease the burdens of the affluent as they make their decorating choices? Not as much as it might: 59 percent of respondents said “furniture ads do not contain enough information.” Asked which sources of information guide their buying, 68 percent cited printed matter from manufacturers; 54 percent mentioned magazine ads. And what style of decor do they favor? American contemporary was the top vote-getter (26 percent), with 18th century English/American the runner-up (22 percent). Help Unwanted? Adding Up Adweek’s Classified Ads For Jobs The market for jobs in advertising, marketing and media finished 1998 on a low note–the sort deep enough to be inaudible to human ears. Thanks in part to December’s numbers, the total of help-wanted classifieds in Adweek posted its first year-to-year decline in seven years. (Let us bow toward the South in tribute to the only upward bars in the chart.) For now, lots of agencies and clients say they’re fully staffed.