That Exhausting TV Set, The Job-Market Blues, Etc. takes

Five years ago has never looked so good—and neither has five years in the future. While polling Americans on the state of the nation at present, Gallup periodically asks them to assess conditions five years in the past and to predict how they’ll be five years ahead. Compared to a year ago, fewer people now give a positive rating to current conditions (64 percent vs. 73 percent). But the five-years-ago positive tally is the highest on record (76 percent, vs. 62 percent in last year’s poll). So is the five-years-from-now positive vote (78 percent, vs. 67 percent last year). How nice to see the past and the future improving in tandem!

They’ve got to eat someplace. An ACNielsen survey finds Americans less likely to dine out in the next three months than they were during the same period a year ago. The7 percent who expect to have dinner out more often were outnumbered nearly four to one by the 27 percent who think they’ll do so less often. The report predicts they’ll take up the nutritional slack by increasing their purchases of packaged goods. Of those polled, 35 percent said they’re more likely than last year to buy U.S.-made groceries.

True or false: The Internet is more conducive to fleeting relationships than to long-termcommitment. It’s true for advertisers and agencies, says a report by Jupiter Media Metrix. Based on a survey of advertisers, the study finds they’re “skeptical about forming long-term relationships with agencies for interactive marketing.” More than one-third of Internet advertisers(37 percent) prefer to pay agencies on a per-project basis; 23 percent would rather pay a straight retainer. They’re not very monogamous, either: 43 percent employ multiple agencies for their interactive work, while an equal percentage rely on a single agency for such tasks.

Let’s say your commercial urges TV viewers to rush to the store and buy the client’s wares. And let’s say they don’t do it. One might say this reflects poorly on your commercial. But such inaction may simply be the normal effect of TV viewing and its cessation. An article in Scientific American (under the headline, “Television Addiction”) discusses research finding that people feel “relaxed and passive” while watching the tube—just as you’d expect. “What is more surprising is that the sense of relaxation ends when the set is turned off, but the feelings of passivity and lowered alertness continue.” Viewers studied by the article’s authors often say the TV “has somehow absorbed or sucked out their energy, leaving them depleted.” Little wonder, then, if they fail to heed a commercial’s call to prompt action.

Nothing like a recession to keep your bills under control. One of the more counterintuitive bits of recent survey data came in response to a New York Times/CBS News poll fielded late last month. Asked how hard it is to keep up with their bills, 15 percent of respondents answered “very.” That’s down from the 21 percent saying the same in a March 2001 poll and from 17 percent in a 1995 survey. Conversely, 13 percent of respondents in the new poll said it’s “very easy” for them to handle their bills, up from 9 percent last March and from 11 percent in 1995. Are consumers so spooked by the recession that they’re cutting spending faster than their immediate circumstances require? If so, pent-up demand may not be as anemic as some experts suggest.

They’ve seen the error of boomers’ ways. Just ask their kids. According to an article on Fox News’ Web site, a number of studies indicate Gen Xers are “embracing a more conventional, discipline-oriented approach to raising children than their baby-boom predecessors.” The item quotes a staffer at Parenting magazine as saying Xers looked at boomers “and felt that maybe they were too permissive with their kids, gave them too many choices.” Xer-style parenting “incorporates communication between the generations as well as firm rules.”

This week’s honors for Best Misuse of Police Speed-Detection Gear go to an ad for Brine Athletic Equipment. If it encourages kids to practice lacrosse instead of racing around in cars, it’ll greatly enhance public safety. A Boston agency named Six created the ad.

Here are some statistics the airlines can use to lure wary Americans aloft. According to Wired, the chances of being killed in a plane crash (1 in 659,779) are lower than the odds of being felled by bad medical care (1 in 83,720), a residential fire (1 in 83,025) or a car crash (1 in 6,585). But they’re higher than the odds of dying in a “catastrophic asteroid strike” (1 in 1.96 billion).

The search continues for a light at the end of the job-market tunnel. As you can see from the chart below, the volume of help-wanted classifieds in Adweek is still extremely poor. One glimmer of hope amid the dismal data: There’s been an upturn in ads for media planners/buyers. Let’s just hope that, once hired, these people plan and buy like mad.