Odds And Ends: Better A Slim Chance Than None At All
In last month’s news photos, the hordes who lined up to buy Powerball tickets looked rather pathetic–reminiscent, at a glance, of refugees queued up to get a ration of bread. After all, nearly all these people were going to lose the money they were spending, as well as the time it took (hours, in some cases) to buy the tickets. Still, the Powerballers could make a rational case for their actions: Even if a ticket gave them only the tiniest chance of getting rich, it was the only chance they’d ever have. Marketers are aware that such reasoning isn’t confined to the purchase of lottery tickets. A significant slice of consumer behavior is animated by the hope that a long shot will come home a winner. The crashingly boring man can bet (while knowing his chances are slim) that buying the kind of car James Bond drove in a movie will make him exciting, too. The woman of a certain age can hope to defy the odds against a new skin cream restoring the bloom of youth. The truth is, the difference between one chance in a zillion and no chance at all is enormous. Consumers know it. Astute marketers know that they know it, and entice them accordingly.

Teed Off? The Politics Of Golf
“All things golf are now seen to be desirable,” declares an article in The New Republic. Headlined “The Golfing of America,” the story remarks on the sport’s steep rise–in terms of cultural impact as well as actual participation. It notes that a “surprising number” of ads for nongolf products now employ golf themes. The moral: “If you want to sell a product, invoke golf. It’s become an emblem of middle-class consumer life.” Maybe. But don’t quite a few people persist in viewing the game as vaguely Republican? Image can stray just so far from demographic fact. In that regard, a recent article in Senior Golfer magazine is of interest. It tells of an online poll in which 53 percent of golfers identified themselves as Republicans and just 18 percent as Democrats. One can’t help wondering whether some Democratic consumers wince each time they see an ad treat golf–the game of Eisenhower!–as the new national pastime.

Mixed Blessings: Anti-Careerist Counseling, That Leisurely Internet, Low-Flying Brokers, Etc.
It will take more than an ad campaign to dissuade today’s undergraduates from viewing education through grubby careerist eyes. Still, hoping to reverse a decline in liberal-arts enrollment as students opt for “job-title” majors, Indiana University gives it a gallant try. Granted, the campaign doesn’t exalt the life of the mind, choosing instead to adopt a more practical tone. That’s fine, though, as it helps to combat the notion that the liberal arts have nothing to say about the real world. Another ad in the campaign shows a skeleton along with the headline, “Okay then.
Follow your dreams in your next life.” Young & Laramore of Indianapolis created the series.

When you listen to the radio, does it seem as if you can’t go two minutes without hearing another sales pitch for a phone company? If so, that impression has considerable basis in reality. Assembling data from Competitive Media Reporting, a report by New York-based Interep says phone companies/services was the largest category last year in national radio spending, at $217 million. In a handsome tribute from one medium to another, the second-ranking category in national radio advertising outlays was television/cable, at $159 million. Filling out the top five: cars/light trucks, home/building retailers and financial products/services.

If you must be photographed while smoking a cigar, make sure to wear olive-drab army fatigues. At least, they work for Fidel Castro, one of the few people to look better with a cigar than without one. A new anti-smoking ad deftly exploits the fact that the typical nondictator looks disagreeably full of himself (or, often, herself) with a cigar sticking out of his mouth. Many of these folks may be perfectly pleasant, but the photos suggest otherwise–as if, for the moment, they think they really are masters of the universe. Advertising can do little to resist an unhealthy fad that’s catching on, but it’s good at kicking one whose cachet is getting a bit worn around the edges. Leagas Delaney in San Francisco created the campaign for the American Cancer Society.

Since the Prince of Wales seeks to undo the prevailing trends in modern architecture, the King of Hearts is certainly entitled to drive in a nail or two. At any rate, that theory finds expression in an ad touting the expansion of Spirit Mountain Casino in Grand Ronde, Ore. (Borders, Perrin & Norrander of Portland created the ad.) With four hands showing, this king runs more than the usual risk of hammering a thumb as he pounds nails.

Thank goodness for poky modems. Sure, people complain about how slow their computers are in navigating the Internet. It turns out, though, that they’re using the time that elapses as the little clock-hands graphic whirls. A Yankelovich survey asked people aged 25-49 if they do other things as they surf the Net. A majority of respondents (62 percent of women, 66 percent of men) said they listen to the radio; likewise, 47 percent of women and 49 percent of men watch TV. One-third of the women do household chores while Net surfing, and one-quarter of the men pay bills. In other words, the widespread introduction of really fast Internet access (whenever that comes) is going to be terribly disruptive to the habits of millions of Americans. On the other hand, the hectic pace of modern life has given rise to some habits that are worth breaking. Asked to cite things they regularly do to save time, 38 percent of respondents said they leave household chores undone, 37 percent said they give up some sleep and 33 percent said they skip meals. It’s little surprise, then, that 79 percent “feel the need to manage my time more efficiently.”

Working on a business-to-business ad? Don’t forget to include the client’s phone number. A study by Cleveland-based Penton Research Services finds that a plurality of potential buyers prefer to seek information from an advertiser by placing a call. The runner-up: faxing a request. While the report anticipates rapid growth in the use of email and the Internet for such purposes, those jazzier methods are the top choices of few people thus far.
Wall Street’s volatility bodes ill for investors, but TheStreet.com is treating it as an opportunity. Since people want to know if they’ve gone bust since seeing the morning news, they’re more apt to subscribe to an online financial publication. DMB&B in New York created a campaign along those lines, complete with the comforting image of the airborne broker.

Boys Will Be Boys: And That’s Why Parents Need Military Academies
What do teenage boys want? Jennifer Love Hewitt, for one thing. Asked to say who’d be the “ideal celebrity girlfriend,” teen boys polled by All About You magazine put the actress atop their wish lists, with 24 percent naming her. Bouncily running a close second was Pamela Anderson Lee (22 percent). (The magazine, written for teenage girls, deplored the boys’ yen for her as an instance of “temporary insanity.”) Vampire nemesis Sarah Michelle Gellar came in third (13 percent).
These findings may suggest that the boys value good looks above all other possible female attractions. And, in fact, they confessed as much in another part of the survey. Asked to cite the “most important qualities you look for in a girl,” 69 percent said “looks,” while 52 percent said “sense of humor” and 40 percent said “honesty.” Let’s give the boys themselves credit for honesty. After all, everyone knows that “sense of humor” is the answer they’re meant to give when asked this question.
The boys provided further evidence of their retrograde tendencies when asked who should pay for a date. Just 8 percent thought the daters should split the tab, while 74 percent said “the guy should pay” and 14 percent put the onus on whoever initiated the date. On the topic of female clothing, the lads were more politically correct. The 22 percent who thought a girl looks her best in “clingy, revealing stuff” are far outnumbered by the 43 percent who said she looks best in “whatever she feels comfortable wearing.” As for makeup, 70 percent said they prefer a girl who uses “natural looking stuff” and 23 percent said they prefer she wear “none at all.”

But Do We Care? Unsecret Ingredients
In a brand-conscious culture, people are increasingly familiar with the branded components of products they buy. The chart below summarizes data from a study by CDB Research & Consulting of New York. As you can see, some of the products have “share of mind” that any consumer brand would envy. To know a name isn’t necessarily to love it, though. The study mentions NutraSweet as an ingredient that’s universally known but not perceived to justify a premium price. At the opposite end of the spectrum, CDB cites Dolby, Kevlar, Intel, Stainmaster, Scotchgard and Teflon as components for which consumers will pay more.

Up To A Point: Online Consumers Prefer To Spread The Wealth
True or false: Make it convenient for online consumers to consolidate their financial dealings with a single company and they’ll gladly do so. Oddly enough, says a report by Forrester Research, the answer seems to be “false.” Noting that the typical online consumer deals with four financial institutions for banking, brokerage, investments and insurance, a survey by the Cambridge, Mass.-based firm finds just 18 percent of them inclined to switch providers for the sake of consolidated services. If consumers are to be believed, it’s not a matter of inertia. Rather, 63 percent say they want to diversify their vast personal fortunes (or even their unvast ones) among different companies, preferring “superior products” to the convenience of one-stop shopping.

Cell Division: Invent Something We Can Talk Into And We’ll Buy It
Once every man, woman and child in America has bought a cellular phone, do you suppose the sales pitches for them will abate? Dream on. But the cell phone continues to vie for honors as the country’s favorite semi-new technology. A survey by Decision Analyst of Arlington, Texas, finds 44 percent of households saying they’ve got a cell phone. As you’d expect, they’re found more often in high-income households than in the low-income variety. (See the chart.) Even among the latter, though, they’re becoming fairly common. In fact, age is almost as important a dividing line as income between the cell-haves and the cell-have-nots. In households where the respondent was between the ages of 35 and 44, 51 percent said they’ve gone cellular–just a notch higher than in households where the respondent was age 45-54 (50 percent). Among respondents age 55-plus, however, the figure fell to 34 percent. The research also detected some regional variation. Cell phones are most common in the South, where 48 percent of households reported having one. The Northeast is the laggard, with 40 percent using the technology.