mark dolliver’s takes

big deal: Getting Beyond Our Aversion to Corporate Giants
Even in an economic boom, the phrase “big business” does not give most Americans a warm glow. But a pair of surveys find them growing more tolerant of megamergers and the huge corporations they produce. Conducted in the aftermath of the merger announcement by AOL and Time Warner, a Gallup survey found 46 percent of its respondents saying the government should allow such deals and 43 percent saying it should “do more to stop” them. By comparison, a December 1998 poll found 37 percent approving of big mergers versus 55 percent favoring action to stop them. Along the same lines, a recent Roper Starch poll found 57 percent of people saying mergers “produce financially sound companies,” up from 49 percent in a 1995 survey. While none of this amounts to wild acclaim for the emergence of corporate giants, it does suggest bigness itself looks less menacing than it once did. And well it should to a public busily buying the biggest houses and biggest SUVs its big brokerage accounts can permit. It must be easier for people to believe “small is beautiful” when they can’t afford the supersized alternatives. Meanwhile, Gallup’s survey gives an intriguing glimpse at how people view their own interests vis-ˆ-vis those of “the economy,” “the workers” and “consumers.” Asked whether megamergers are good or bad for the economy, 49 percent said “good” and 35 percent said “bad.” (Others had no opinion or said the effects were “mixed.”) Thirty-one percent said such mergers were “good for the workers” and 55 percent said they’re “bad.” Forty-one percent saw such mergers as “good for consumers,” while 45 percent said they’re “bad”–a considerable shift from the December 1998 poll, when “good” trailed “bad” by 31 percent to 54 percent. And how do the mergers usually affect “you personally?” Respondents split evenly, with 38 percent saying the effects were good and 39 percent saying they’re bad.
cut the churn: A Bundle of Telecom Joy
No doubt there are get-a-lifers who love nothing better than to mix and match phone services from various companies. However, a report by J.D. Power and Associates finds a “growing number” of consumers would rather have one provider satisfy all their telecom needs. A poll fielded last year by the research firm found nearly 50 percent of consumers preferring to have a single provider, up from 40 percent the previous year. Among those who favor such “bundling,” local phone companies are gaining ground: 54 percent of respondents expressed an intention to pick their local provider for all services, up from 48 percent in 1998. Already, the 7 percent of households that are bundled account for $2.4 billion in long-distance revenue. The report suggests “the bundling strategy may become one of the more effective approaches to bolster loyalty among consumers.” On the downside, bundled customers “tend to spend less per month than do their unbundled counterparts.” For a telecom company, the benefit of bundling lies partly in reducing the costly “churn” in its customer base.
ranking endorsers: Who’d Sway Your Vote?
If you run for office, think twice before soliciting Rosie O’Donnell’s backing. A poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found 6 percent of respondents saying her endorsement would make them more likely to vote for a candidate, versus 19 percent saying it’d make them less likely to do so. The rest said it wouldn’t make any difference. Oprah Winfrey’s backing would be modestly helpful (14 percent “more,” 11 percent “less”). As for the political
Jesses, neither Ventura (9 percent “more,” 17 percent “less”) nor Jackson (13 percent “more,” 19 percent “less”) would be a net plus. Michael Jordan’s endorsement would be a wash, with 9 percent of respondents swayed in each direction. The poll’s best numbers went to Colin Powell (27 percent “more,” 4 percent “less”) and Jimmy Carter (23 percent “more,” 8 percent “less”).
anti-brussels sentiment: A Heaping Helping of Data About Food Preferences
Maybe you shouldn’t devote your agency’s resources to that Okra King fast-food account. Consumer resistance could make it a lost cause, judging by the results of a Bon Appƒtit reader poll. As you can also see from the chart below, the vogue for Belgian beer and cuisine hasn’t rubbed off on Brussels sprouts. What vegetables did the respondents like? Asparagus was the favorite, followed by broccoli and corn. As for fruit, strawberries, raspberries and peaches were the best-liked, while figs, kiwis and plums were the most disliked.
When the magazine’s readers were asked to name their “favorite comfort food,” ice cream and pasta tied with 26 percent of the vote. (Anyone for a penne sundae?) And while pundits use “plain vanilla” as a term of contempt, people like the stuff: Asked to name their favorite flavor of ice cream, respondents gave vanilla (22 percent) an edge over chocolate (19 percent). Italian cuisine is the top choice for cooking at home, and it’s also the favorite when it comes to dining out. The runner-up at home is “traditional American,” while Chinese cuisine holds that status on the town.
Among other info-morsels from the poll: 63 percent of respondents eat in their cars, with burgers the top automotive cuisine. Along the same lines, 40 percent of men and 25 percent of women said they eat fast-food breakfasts in their cars. When entertaining, women are more likely than men to be “concerned with how the table looks” (75 percent versus 54 percent). The favorite take-out dinner is pizza, cited by 39 percent of the survey’s respondents.
mixed blessings: Calling All Whistle-Blowers, Crackpots at the Polls, Etc.
The world is full of gays and lesbians. They just happen not to be in our own families. How else are we to interpret two numbers in a recent Harris Poll? Asked whether they have any “close personal friends who are gay/lesbian,” 41 percent of respondents said “yes.” When people were asked whether they have any “close relatives” in that category, the “yes” tally fell to 23 percent.

If anyone’s entitled to run shrill ads, a maker of whistles qualifies. But American Whistle Corp. passes up that privilege, preferring to charm potential customers. Beyond noting the effect a whistle has on a bandleader’s self-esteem, the series offers a qualified boast: “We make the finest metal whistles in the U.S.A. Hell, we make the only metal whistles in the U.S.A.” BVK/McDonald of Milwaukee created the ads.

Does cleaning the house put you in the mood for love? Odd as it seems–i.e., very odd–male respondents to an poll put this domestic chore atop their list of activities that make them feel romantic. (Do the lads fantasize about Martha Stewart as they vacuum?) Among female respondents, drinking led the list. Asked to name the foods that put them in the mood, men gave top honors to pizza, with meat and potatoes as runner-up (just ahead of Buffalo wings). For women, champagne, chocolate and strawberries were the top choices.

When a commercial urges politically uninvolved people to vote, one often wonders why. Isn’t the republic better off when they just stay home? Arguing otherwise, spots for the Ad Council’s Federal Voting Assistance Program prod nonvoters into action by noting that some people who already vote are loonies. Fail to vote and you’ll leave undue power in the hands of yahoos like the guy with the bullhorn, a rock ‘n’ roller who terms his music “the most powerful form of political influence.” (A brief sample suggests it’s merely the loudest form of political nonsense.) He also drives around bellowing to passersby, “You are all sheep to capitalist wolves!” Another spot stars a fellow who has read “over 9,000 science fiction novels.” Having thus established his credentials as “an intellectual,” he is “more qualified to make public policy.” And, by the way, he has “yet to find the woman who’s my intellectual peer.” In each spot, a voiceover notes that “these guys vote.” Hence, “shouldn’t you?” Bates USA of New York created the series