Mark Dolliver’s Takes: Mixed Blessings

The nice thing about high gas prices, from a marketer’s standpoint, is that they make prices of other things seem fair by comparison. In a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey, just 18 percent of adults said current gas prices are “reasonable compared with the price of most other things they buy.” Many people will be pleasantly surprised if gas stays below $4 per gallon this year: Nearly half think it’s very likely to reach that level, including 10 percent who think it’s very likely to hit $5.

In selling to the frugal souls who’d grown up during the Depression, marketers had to convince them they deserved the finer things in life. This won’t be a problem in addressing consumers who are now age 18-24, judging from a poll by the Ad Council and Lightspeed Research. They assume people who have good things in life did something to deserve them. As the chart at lower left indicates, 18-24s who hold this belief easily outnumber those who see luck at play. Today’s tough workplace no doubt reinforces the belief that success is a result of hard toil. Women were more apt than men to say people deserve the good that befalls them (73 percent vs. 66 percent) and correspondingly less likely to see it as a case of luck (51 percent vs. 61 percent).

If you wanted to show a happy woman in a commercial, you’d supply her with a kid or two, right? Popular wisdom says childless women must be less happy in the long run than those who have kids. A study co-authored by a University of Michigan sociologist, Amy Pienta, says it’s not true, though. First of all, “it’s not so much whether you have children as when you have them.” Gauging women age 51-61, the study found that those who’d had kids “early” (before 19) were less happy than those who’d had kids “on time” (19-24), who in turn were less happy than those who’d had kids “late” (25 and older). When the research controlled for various “sociodemographic factors,” it found the childless women “about as satisfied and happy with their lives as the on-time mothers.” What really made the difference in later-life happiness, though, was “whether you have anyone else to love in your life.” This has “a greater impact on a woman’s well-being than whether or not she has children.” In short, children are vastly overrated.

Who says advertising isn’t informative? An ad for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (via R&R Partners of that city) tells why “there are still no flying cars”: The folks who might have built them “didn’t hold their meetings in Vegas.” The theory is that bold ideas “don’t happen in a meeting room. Not unless there’s a little inspiration beforehand.” It’s a clever way of turning the city’s reputation as adult play space into a plus for the conduct of serious business.

Amid the vogue for locally grown food, do people think it’s safer than mass-market fare? A Rasmussen Reports poll finds little evidence that they do. Seventy-seven percent of respondents said they’re at least “somewhat” confident that supermarket foods are safe—matching the 77 percent who said this of food from local farmers’ markets. Farmers’ markets had just a modest edge over supermarkets in the number of people who are “very” confident the food sold there is safe (34 percent vs. 27 percent). When people were asked about imported foods, there was a distinct lack of confidence: “Only 28 percent believe that food imports to this country can be adequately inspected before reaching the grocery shelf.”