mark dolliver’s takes

boomers and the boom: Let’s Just Hope the Economy Is Hot When They Turn 60
If you’re facing midlife crisis, as baby boomers now are, it doesn’t hurt to do so amid the greatest economic expansion in history. Sure, boomers are edgy as the vanguard of their
generation plods past 50. But can you imagine how they’d feel about their increasing decrepitude if their net worth were going to seed as well? (And we may find out, Alan Greenspan forbid.) As it is, a Heinz Family Philanthropies/Newsweek poll finds a mishmash of confidence and anxiety among the 35-54-year-old cohort. Sixty-nine percent say they’re satisfied with their standard of living. Getting at specific elements of this, fewer are content with their household income (57 percent), but more are satisfied with their housing situation (81 percent). And for all the talk of a leisure drought, 69 percent are content with the amount of free time they have. While just 34 percent feel middle-class families are better off than was the case five years ago (versus 69 percent saying wealthy families are better off), 39 percent say “people like you” are better off. Do boomers fear the economy will soon come crashing down and wreck their personal finances? Not really. Asked how they think their own financial situation will change during the next 12 months, the 6 percent expecting it to worsen are vastly outnumbered by the 44 percent believing it will improve. If more boomers aren’t afraid the stock market will blow up in their faces, maybe it’s because they don’t think it’s done much for them anyway. Fifty-five percent said they’ve “missed out on” the market rise, while 35 percent believe they’ve “shared in” Wall Street’s gains. Meanwhile, today’s tight labor market has not entirely calmed boomers’ fears on the employment front. Twenty-nine percent said they’re “very concerned” about losing their jobs or being forced to take a cut in pay.

keeping the faith: Women in the Pews
In the stereotypical Old World household, religion is a female responsibility–a spiritual add-on to the temporal tasks of raising the kids and doing the laundry. As a survey of Christian churchgoing by Barna Research Group confirms, thIs pattern has a milder counterpart in 21st-century America. Women are more likely than men (79 percent versus 63 percent) to say the word “spiritual” applies to them. The gap is even sharper among those who term themselves “deeply spiritual” (69 percent of women, 50 percent of men). As for regular church attendance and Bible reading, 45 percent of women and 35 percent of men hew to each practice. While few
congregations have a female minister, women are 56 percent more likely than men to have held another “leadership position” at church, 57 percent more likely to attend adult Sunday school and 33 percent more apt to have done volunteer work for the church.

mixed blessings: Those Popular Negatives, Numbers to Nosh On, Etc.
File this one under “No Accounting for Taste.” A survey by the Pew Research Center for The People & The Press asked people how their votes might be influenced by hearing various messages about George W. Bush and Al Gore. While 52 percent said they’d be less likely to vote for Gore upon hearing he “Took part in unethical fundraising in 1996,” 6 percent said it would make them more likely to vote for him. Along the same lines, while 47 percent would be less likely to vote for Bush upon hearing he “Doesn’t know enough about issues,” 7 percent said it would make them more likely to back him. No doubt election day will pose a hard choice for those who want a president who is unethical and uninformed.

The prize for Oddest Personal Testimony in an Antique-Furniture Sales Pitch goes this week to a postcard ad for Love Train Antiques of Minneapolis. Prospective buyers of this small table will be reassured to know the old toper didn’t leave rings on its top. The other side of the postcard lures antiquers with the news that a new container of old stuff has “just arrived from Europe.” Another ad in the series (by Peterson Milla Hooks of Minneapolis) features a bearded ancient and an armchair above the text, “I’d keep this chair if I weren’t dead.”

Can a nutritional neologism transform the way consumers think of juice? A campaign for Tropicana gives it a brave try by coining the term “calciummm.” Our predisposition is to assume good-for-us nutrients like calcium aren’t compatible with delicious flavor. The catchy “calciummm” leaves us open to the possibility that we can do our bones and our taste buds a favor by drinking Tropicana. FCB of New York created the ad.

Grab some pretzels and settle down with this item. As summarized on the WorldOpinion Web site, a poll conducted for Tupperware Corp. found that 73 percent of American adults snack at least once a day. Thirty-nine percent nosh more than twice daily. Then there are the all-too-virtuous
4 percent who never snack at all. Actually, even chronic snackers are shifting toward healthier treats. Thirty percent said fresh fruits or vegetables are their between-meal favorites, versus 24 percent according that status to chips or crackers. A mere 9 percent confessed to ranking candy as their favorite. True to their hunter/gatherer origins, men tend to buy snacks en route to a destination or upon arriving, while women tend to bring snacks from home. Men are more likely than women to snack because they’re hungry (53 percent versus 43 percent). Women are more likely than men to snack out of sheer boredom (29 percent versus 20 percent).

As body parts go, the spleen doesn’t get a lot of attention in ads. Indeed, it’s an organ whose prestige has fallen precipitously since the times when it was known (in a definition Webster’s now terms “obsolete”) as “the seat of emotions or passions.” Under the circumstances, spleenophiles will draw some consolation from an ad for the NHL’s Washington Capitols in which the spleen gets higher billing than the heart. Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos of Boston created the ad. (Take that, Bruins fans!)

What’s the most creative time of day for agency people? No, we don’t mean the time when they fill out their expense reports. In a survey of ad executives by The Creative Group, a staffing service based in Menlo Park, Calif., 66 percent said the morning is their most creative time. That figure includes 32 percent who specified “early morning.” Ten percent said they’re best in the afternoon, while another five percent opted for lunchtime/midday. Nine percent said they’re most creative late at night.

hooray for hollywood? Or Maybe They’re Addicted To Movie-Theater Popcorn

When product quality in a category is notoriously unreliable, do consumers start to shun it? Not in the case of movies–a sector in which even the most highly praised merchandise often disappoints. If bath soap had a similarly dismal track record, most people would walk around unwashed. By contrast, they’re cutting Hollywood more and more slack. A series of Gallup polls finds a steady rise over the past dozen years in the number of people who’ve gone to a theater to see a movie in the previous 12 months–from 55 percent in 1988 to 74 percent this year. Likewise, the number of people who’ve gone to five or more movies in a 12-month span is up from 29 percent then to 44 percent now. Still, people do seem to lose interest in moviegoing as they grow older and wiser. While just 12 percent of respondents in the 18-29 age bracket had not gone to a movie in the previous 12 months, the figure was 17 percent among the 30-49-year-olds and 32 percent among the 50-64s. Young adults were also far more likely than their elders to have gone to five or more movies. Indeed, 45 percent of the 18-29s said they’d gone to 10 or more movies in the previous 12 months. One last tidbit: Among those who make a point of seeing movies that feature specific stars, Julia Roberts won the most mentions (22 percent), with Tom Hanks as runner-up (19 percent).

but it could be worse: On the Lips for a Season, On the Hips for a Lifetime
You know those pounds you gained during the holidays? You didn’t really gain three of them, assuming you eat and then fret like the typical consumer. A study by the National Institutes of Health tracked a group of adults during the chow-down season that starts with Thanksgiving and ends with New Year’s. The average weight gain for these intrepid volunteers was 1.05 pounds–not good, of course, but three pounds less than the subjects thought they’d gained. They could devour several entire cheesecakes to celebrate this news and still have less of a weight gain than they’d feared. (Now there’s the basis for an ad campaign, eh?) According to the NIH, fewer than 10 percent of the people in the study gained more than five pounds during the holidays. Unfortunately, those substantial gains were most common among people who were overweight to begin with. The more general bad news is that few of the subjects had shed their holiday poundage when weighed again a year after the study began. Instead, this weigh-in detected an average increase of 1.4 pounds from the prior year. Since people have little luck losing weight once they’ve put it on, the NIH says dietary vigilance during the holidays could be important in controlling Americans’ waistlines. Don’t be surprised some November to see public-service commercials that urge you to shun second helpings of turkey and trimmings.

march on: Adding Up Adweek’s Classified Ads for Jobs
The market for jobs in advertising, media and marketing continues to strengthen, judging by the volume of help-wanted classified ads running in Adweek. Every region is getting in on the act, with double-digit gains across the board. As it happens, March ’99 was a particularly weak month, so the comparison with March 2000 is more dramatic than it would otherwise be. Nonetheless, the year-to-date totals make it clear that we’re not dealing here with a one-month fluke. The West has been such a powerhouse that its 44 percent rise in March linage actually reduced its year-to-date gain by a couple of percentage points. Can’t get much hotter than that.

road trips: Way Out There in the Blue On a Laptop and a PDA
With all the information-age gear available, some business travelers almost need Sherpa bearers to carry it for them. A poll by Greenfield Online quizzed frequent business travelers about the gizmos they take on the road. Seventy-one percent bring a cellular phone; 53 percent use a laptop or notebook computer; 33 percent take a pager, and 12 percent use a personal digital assistant. What do they do with all this hardware? In the case of the cellular phone, more use it for personal calls (79 percent) than for calling into the office (71 percent). The ability to call from anywhere (cited by 90 percent) is more a factor than the ability to receive calls
(77 percent). Among those who bring a laptop or notebook computer, the ability to check e-mail is marginally more popular than the ability to prepare documents (86 percent versus 85 percent). And these travelers are more likely to access the Internet (74 percent) than their own office network (59 percent). Half of those who tote a computer use it at least two hours a day. Travelers who take a pager are loyal to the device, with 86 percent saying they always take it along on their business trips. As for personal digital assistants, the assistance most often has to do with scheduling. Ninety-two percent of those who bring one on trips use it for that purpose