QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Do You Believe Good Guys Finish Last?
With ethics courses sprouting like fungi at business schools, one could be forgiven for suspecting that moral virtue is an impediment to worldly success. Why else would so much indoctrination be needed to squelch the instincts of the go-getting classes? But people in the country at large don’t necessarily share that dark outlook. In a nationwide survey conducted for Adweek, respondents were asked (in a variation on Leo Durocher’s quip that “nice guys finish last”) whether they think good guys finish last. In all, 32 percent said good guys do indeed finish last, but 62 percent disagreed. Men (38 percent) were markedly more likely than women (26 percent) to answer affirmatively. You could interpret this to mean that men are less naive about the ways of the rough-and-tumble world. Or you could take it to mean that women have a firmer grasp of what constitutes true success. In a breakdown of the data by age group, younger respondents were consistently more cynical than their elders. The 18-24-year-olds were the likeliest to answer “yes” (38 percent), while those 45 and over were the least likely (27 percent).

FAT CITY: Read ’em and Eat
The spirit is willing, but the flesh could care less. As you can see from the chart, the drumbeat of experts’ dietary advice has had negligible effect on consumers’ level of interest in nutrition labels, even though the feds mandated changes to make those labels more informative. The figures come from “Shopping for Health,” a report by Prevention and the Food Marketing Institute. (We’ll pass along more tidbits from this extensive study in weeks to come.) The labels clearly are useful to health-conscious people, but it’s less clear whether they win converts to that category. Looking at statistics like these, a populist might argue that regulations on labeling have increased the gap between the nutritional haves and have-nots.

LIVING LARGE: Don’t Forget to Dust My Nobel Prize
Given a choice, would you rather be richer, smarter or better looking? Swing magazine recently put that question to a nationwide sample of 18-34-year-olds, and a slim majority (52 percent) were smart enough to take the money, while 42 percent opted for the smarts. Just 4 percent picked good looks. Maybe these folks aren’t so immature after all. Or maybe they think they already look fabulous. As you can see from the chart, they’re ready to have someone other than mom pick up after them around the house. And they’d like that house to be in the boonies. Asked what sort of area they’d prefer to live in, 53 percent chose the country, 25 percent preferred the suburbs and a mere 21 percent opted for the big city. In light of these numbers, one wonders whether marketers are overdoing the urban grit in ads aimed at Gen Xers. Among other findings: While respondents are keen on physical fitness, twice as many would rather win a Nobel Prize than an Olympic gold medal.

FALL AHEAD: Adding Up Adweek’s Classified Ads for Jobs
The market for jobs in advertising, marketing and media heated up as the weather cooled down, judging from the volume of help-wanted ads running in Adweek. Except in the laggard West, whose year-to-date totals are now in a dead heat with those of 1996, the summer slowdown was forgotten amid robust gains. The East has emerged as the powerhouse driving up the national totals. As has been the case throughout the long bull market for job seekers, positions demanding high-tech expertise were especially plentiful last month.

NUPTIAL NUMBERS: And, Odds Are, They Do It All Again in a Few Years
Amid the lavishness of today’s weddings, does the bride’s mother look slightly threadbare? A study by Bride’s finds that people are paying considerably more now than they did at the beginning of the decade for nearly every aspect of their weddings and receptions. But the average outlay for the mother-of-the-bride outfit has plummeted by $5, from $236 in 1990 to $231 in 1997. Doubtless this reflects some profound cultural shift in the prestige of motherhood (and mother-in-lawhood) in modern society. All in all, the cost of the wedding and reception has climbed from $15,208 to $19,104. Among the significant items: $7,635 for the reception (up from $5,900); $3,044 for the engagement ring (versus $2,285); $393 for the limousine (versus $201); $1,311 for photography/videography (versus $908); $823 for the wedding dress (versus $794). Among the few items to have declined in cost, apart from the bride’s mother’s rags: music (down from $882 to $830) and the bride’s headpiece/veil (from $169 to $166).