Mark Dolliver’s Takes

Would You Rather Be a Host or a Guest? or, my turkey or yours?
If you can stand it, here’s further evidence that the late ’90s are a golden age: Polling conducted for Adweek indicates that Americans are becoming more hospitable. Asked whether they’d rather be hosts or guests this Thanksgiving, a slim majority (52.1 percent) preferred to host. By comparison, when people were asked in spring 1997 whether they would rather be hosts or guests (without reference to any specific occasion), 55 percent preferred to be guests. Both surveys were conducted by Alden & Associates, a marketing research firm based in Hermosa Beach, Calif. Those who believe there’s an intelligent design to the universe will see this confirmed in the roughly equivalent number of hosts and guests, though one suspects the natural guest would be willing to gratify multiple hosts by eating their food and imbibing their drinks. Meanwhile, this year’s findings contradict the popular notion that the poor will gladly share their meager store of goods while the rich are tight as ticks. In fact, the incidence of hostly inclinations increased in tandem with respondents’ income levels. This is good news, obviously, for guests who wish to be entertained in lavish fashion. What explains the modest rise in hostliness in the past couple of years? Perhaps the economic boom has simply given people the wherewithal to unleash hospitable impulses they had all along. Or, it may be that people are more house-proud than ever, given the buying and enlarging and renovating they’ve done of late, and they enjoy having guests around to admire the domestic splendor. By the way, if you hope to cadge a last-minute invitation for this Thanksgiving, you’ll have a better chance in the Northeast, South and Mountain regions. Respondents in those parts of the country are more likely than the national average to prefer the role of host.
the workaholic gap: All in a 12-Hour-Day’s Work
No wonder the perception of a “glass ceiling” rankles. A survey of senior-level executives by Norwalk, Conn.-based Exec-U-Net finds women far more likely than men (35 percent versus 22 percent) to consider themselves workaholics. And among executives whose salaries exceed $150,000, women are twice as likely as men to say that term defines them. The disparity is particularly sharp among executives in the $150,000-199,000 range, where 52 percent of the women and 22 percent of the men are self-described workaholics. There’s an intriguing twist, though: The research also found that male workaholics work 59.9 hours per week, while female workaholics toil 56.9 hours. In its analysis of the data, Exec-U-Net speculates that demands on their time from outside the workplace contribute to female executives’ sense that they’re working too much. Men presumably have less expectation of balancing work and family, so they’re less apt to feel put-upon by long hours at the salt mines. And the hours are long. Note that among the senior executives (male and female) who did not consider themselves workaholics, the work week averaged 55.4 hours.
doctored data: These Are More Than a Few Of Our Favorite Worries
Even in the Edenic ’90s, people have their worries. Indeed, a poll commissioned by The Washington Post makes it clear that a single topic can produce two varieties of fear, each a mirror image of the other. For instance, when asked to say which of 51 possibilities worried them “a great deal,” 46 percent of respondents cited a rise in illegal immigration–even as 17 percent feared the U.S. will “shut the door to new immigrants.” Similarly, 41 percent worried that “Not enough is being done to make it harder to own a gun” and 25 percent fretted that “It’s becoming too hard for a law-abiding citizen to own a gun.” And while 28 percent worried that it’ll become easier for a woman to get an abortion, 22 percent feared that it’ll become harder.
The survey detected no worry, though, that the nation’s healthcare difficulties will soon abate. The top fear on the list (cited by 66 percent of respondents) was that “Insurance companies are making decisions about medical care that doctors and patients should be making.” Worry No. 3 on the list (59 percent) was that “Elderly Americans won’t be able to afford the prescription drugs they need.” No. 5 was that “Medical benefits you and your family now receive will be reduced or eliminated” (55 percent). Just missing the top 10 was a fear that “The number of Americans without health insurance will continue to rise” (50 percent).
For 19 of the items on the roster, there was comparative polling data from 1991. In 15 of these cases, the incidence of worry in 1999 was lower than it had been in ’91. Among the eventualities with the sharpest drops: “Use of illegal drugs will increase” (down from 68 percent then to 52 percent now), “Crime will increase” (69 percent then, 55 percent now) and “Nobody is looking out for the interests of the middle class” (52 percent then, 39 percent now). The one item on the list posting a steep rise was “The U.S. doesn’t spend enough on its armed forces” (12 percent then and 22 percent now).
Elsewhere on the list, the worry that “Moral standards of the country are not high enough” inched up one percentage point since ’91 (to 46 percent) and fell by 5 points since a 1996 poll. Of course, people may have decided the country’s moral standards are low–and that they’re utterly unworried about it.
race meets religioni Not Everyone Worships Pop-Cultural Irreverence
It’s one of the anomalies of the ’90s: Amid a religious awakening, irreverence has become the predominant tone of popular culture–advertising included. Needless to say, this is alienating for people whose own lives are ordered around religious reverence. And it must be doubly so for those who already feel excluded (to one degree or another) from the American mainstream. In this context, figures from the 1999 Don Coleman Advertising/Yankelovich Partners African-American Monitor study offer a useful reminder that religion continues to be a larger force in the American black community than it is among whites. The chart here summarizes some of the details to emerge when people were asked about religion in their own lives. Elsewhere in the survey, when people were asked whether they “need to satisfy the spiritual hunger in me,” 56 percent of blacks agreed “strongly,” compared to 22 percent of whites. Along the same lines, 73 percent of blacks surveyed said they view religion as “very important,” versus 46 percent of whites. This racial disparity is reflected in the respondents’ media-consumption habits as well: 49 percent of blacks said they watch religious programs on television, versus 28 percent of whites. Likewise, 44 percent of blacks reported listening to religious shows on the radio, compared to 23 percent of whites.
mixed blessings: Selling by the Syllable, Prehistoric Wimps, Etc.
Do you plan to spend more, less or the same on holiday gifts this year compared to last? A recent ABCNews/Money poll found the “less” vote nearly doubling the “more” tally (29 percent versus 15 percent), while 54 percent of respondents said they’ll spend the same. No doubt such surveys provide a general indication of how the shopping season will pan out. Ask yourself this, though: Do you have more than the vaguest idea how much you spent on gifts last year? The poll’s comparative question presumes you do. More power to you if that’s so, but the premise gives most of us more credit than we deserve.
To the timid marketer, it’s a disadvantage if the client’s wares have unpronounceable names. To the intrepid marketer, it’s a selling point. So, let us salute the Black Forest Inn in Minneapolis for a billboard that boldly notes the polysyllabic flavor of German cuisine. (Gabriel Diericks Razidlo of that city created the piece.) In this era of supersized meals, there must be a lucrative niche for foods whose very names are a mouthful. Another ad in the series counsels customers to “Loosen the lederhosen.”
Men are accustomed these days to books that denigrate the male role in the modern world. At least we can look back fondly on the days when our manly forebears roamed around hunting for woolly mammoths while the womenfolk tended the home fires. Maybe masculinity has fallen on hard times in our day, we tell ourselves, but nobody can say we weren’t he-men back then. Ah, but it turns out they can. Even prehistoric man is getting stiffed. An article this month in The New York Times told of an academic conference on American prehistory at which one archaeologist cited evidence of a “subsistence strategy carried out by both sexes and all age groups in stark contrast to the traditional model based on highly mobile groups of spear-wielding, mammoth-killing macho men.” The article says this attack on aboriginal macho drew a “round of hearty applause” from the assembled experts. Face it, fellas, we just can’t win.
Always nice to see a hint of class warfare in an ad for a business school. Reckoning that mere ambition is not enough, an ad for an Executive Masters in Technology program taps into resentment toward the well-dressed and well-credentialed types who are already a rung up on the corporate ladder. (The course is a joint project of the Wharton School and Penn’s engineering school.) One doesn’t expect an ad for business education to rhapsodize about the life of the mind, but this one is frank in touting “the only master’s program designed for true
technology leadership. And blatant ladder climbing.” Goose of Philadelphia created the piece.
Honors for Best Use of Graveyard Imagery in a Bowling-Ball Ad go this week to Ebonite and its agency, Doe-Anderson of Louisville, Ky. The novel product, visible skull and all, has been trademarked by the bowling-gear company as the Skull Ball. Terse copy urges you to be “the first demented freak on your block to own the Skull Ball.” And if you’re not the first on your block, you must live in a very odd neighborhood.
desert-island fave: Toward a Wired Population That Looks Like America
You know a technology has arrived when large numbers of people rearrange their furniture to accommodate it. The Internet has crossed that threshold, judging from the responses to the second annual America Online/Roper Starch Cyberstudy. Among the survey sample of U.S. adults who use online or Internet services from home, 52 percent have moved furniture to make room for the computer. “This trend recalls how people rearranged their households around the television set over a half-century ago,” says a summary of the report. (Of course, it’s more likely to yield such comparisons if you happen to be America Online.) Another sign the Internet has become more mainstream: “Thirty percent of this year’s new Internet consumers are college graduates, compared to 43 percent of 1998 newcomers.” Along the same lines, those joining the online ranks this year have lower median income ($41,250) than last year’s newcomers ($53,000) as the Internet population grows to mirror the population in general. Among other tidbits from the study: The Internet passes the desert-island test. Sixty-six percent of those surveyed would choose a computer with Internet access rather than a phone or a TV set if they were stranded on the proverbial island