Mark Dolliver’s Takes: Mixed Blessings

Honesty may be the best policy, but dishonesty has a big constituency. In fact, Americans seem to feel dishonesty is a growth market. A recent Harris Poll asked adults whether they’d “generally trust” people in various professions to tell the truth. Teachers fared the best, with 80 percent of respondents trusting them to be truthful. But that’s down from 86 percent in 1998. Doctors ran second (77 percent, vs. 83 percent in 1998), trailed by professors (75 percent vs. 77 percent), police officers (69 percent vs. 75 percent) and scientists (68 percent vs. 79 percent). “The ordinary man or woman” polled a decent65 percent, but that’s off from 71 percent in 1998. Clergymen/priests suffered the worst decline in trust (64 percent this year vs. 85 percent in 1998). Professions that usually do poorly in these polls did so again. Just24 percent trust lawyers to be truthful, and 23 percent say the same of stockbrokers. Meanwhile, a Gallup survey asked people to judge the “honesty and ethical standards” of people in 21 professions. Nurses topped the list, with 79 percent of adults rating their ethics as “very high” or “high.” Nine percent said this of advertising practitioners, putting them behind real estate agents (19 percent) but ahead of car salesmen (6 percent) and telemarketers (5 percent).

Think your commercial has our full attention? Don’t bet on it in this media-multitasking era. A study by BIGResearch and the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association finds that 60 percent of men and 67 percent of women sometimes watch TV when they go online. Along the same lines, 51 percent of men and 52 percent of women perusemagazines while the radio is on; 68 percent of men and 74 percent of women read the newspaper while they have the TV set on.

‘Tis the season to have little faith in the ability of one’s friends and relatives to pick out good gifts. In a Maritz Poll, 39 percent of adults said they’d rather receive gift certificates than wrapped presents. Elsewhere on the gift-giving front, a Scripps Networks poll finds men more likely than women to prefer store-bought presents (41 percent vs.35 percent). Women are more likely than men to favor handmade/personalized gifts (56 percent vs. 46 percent). And that’s just the tip of the holiday-gender-gap iceberg. Men are more likely than women to say they enjoy having guests (52 percent vs.30 percent); women are more likely to enjoy decorating (31 percent vs. 19 percent) and preparing food (32 percent vs. 25 percent).

And now for a gender non-gap. Despite the image of videogames as a predominantly male pastime, a Mintel study finds women as likely as men to play. In fact, women outnumber men in the ranks of people who play more than once a day. Mintel expects consumers to spend $7.9 billion on gaming software this year.

Anti-globalization activists would have us believe ordinary consumers are full of resentment toward multinational brands. Conducted among young urbanites in 41 countries, a study by Research International says it’s not so. The crucial point is that these people don’t experience global brands as something imposed on them. Rather, the images of such brands are “enhanced by the consumers’ own imaginations.” While people are left cold by “one-size-fits-all” global branding, they’re inclined to “forgive the brand” for its missteps. “Today’s global consumers want to protect their favorite brands and will preserve their allegiances to the extent of turning a blind eye to political and ethical malpractice of parent companies,” concludes the research firm.

Bad news for those of you who hate hearing people chatter on their wireless phones: As shown in the chart, an Ipsos-Reid poll finds that more than one-fourth of consumers think it’s likely they’ll buy one in the next three months (including 9 percent who feel they’re “very likely” to do so). The polling firm says consumers’ responses reflect a preference for practicality over newness. The relative lack of interest in HDTV also stems from consumers’ shaky grasp of how it works. While 74 percent of respondents had heard of HDTV, just 10 percent claimed to be “very familiar” with it. In any event, three-fourths of those familiar with HDTV said it’s too expensive for them right now.