YOU SLEEP IN, YOU WIN: Put On Your Pajamas and Savor Today’s Ultimate Luxury
In the age of the power breakfast, need we be surprised that Americans wish they could sleep in? A Roper Starch survey for Hearst Magazines finds sleep is now the “ultimate luxury.” Asked what they’d do with an extra hour or two per day, respondents put sleep atop the wish list–ahead of hobbies, reading, exercise, doing nothing, watching TV and making love, in that order of preference. Perhaps we’ll see a time when keeping up with the Joneses consists of catching more zzz’s than they do. Conspicuous consumption might mean sleeping on your front lawn, where everyone can see you pigging out on great nature’s second course. And the hit TV show of the day could be Who Wants to Take a Nap? Still, another section of the survey suggests this happy day has yet to dawn.
Given a choice between more money or more free time, 55 percent of the respondents preferred money, versus 38 percent opting for time. Why might this be so? Even amid a supposed drought of leisure, people often seem at a loss as to how to spend their time. Prompted by commercials, though, they can always think of lots of ways to spend their money. Moreover, as the economic boom produces more and more rich folks, the idea of being rich oneself becomes less abstract. How much income would it take to make people feel rich? Not as much as you might suppose. On average, respondents said they’d need $155,000 a year. Even among those making $75,000 and above, the figure deemed necessary to cross the rich threshold was a not-shabby-but-not-lavish $208,000. One more tidbit from the survey: Given a stark choice between “true love and a life of poverty” or “a loveless marriage and wealth beyond their dreams,” 54 percent chose the former and just 16 percent preferred the latter. But beware of the 28 percent who were undecided.

PLEASED TO MEET YOU: Life, Intelligent or Otherwise
If space aliens come to our planet during the 21st century, they’ll probably get a better welcome in China than in Germany. Why? They’re expected by folks in the former venue, but not in the latter. A poll by Toronto-based Angus Reid Group asked people whether they think contact with alien beings is a “real possibility” for the new century. Large majorities in the Philippines (85 percent), Germany (83 percent), France (78 percent) and Japan (72 percent) thought such an event unlikely. But narrow majorities in urban Chile (52 percent) and China (51 percent) said it’s likely we’ll meet “intelligent life” from space. On the terrestrial front, people were asked whether they think the century will witness a world war. Europeans thought not, with 76 percent of Germans and Italians and 60 percent of Britons saying it’s unlikely. In the U.S., by contrast, 55 percent said a world war in this century is likely–including 24 percent who see it as “very” likely.

SCRUBBED: Proving the ’50s Were Not The Apex of Clean Living
How do today’s Americans compare with those of 1950? The current cohort is cleaner. So we learn from a comparison of Gallup polls. When Americans were asked in 1950 how often they took a bath or shower in winter, 29 percent said they did so every day. For 17 percent, it was a once-a-week affair. When Gallup posed this question last month, the number of daily bathers had climbed to 75 percent, while 1 percent were making do with a single bath per winter week. So, if other social indicators suggest we’re going to hell in a handbasket, at least we’ll be clean when we get there.
But we won’t all get there bright and early. In the 1950 poll, just 2 percent of respondents confessed to waking up later than 9:00 on a weekday morning. In last month’s poll, the number had risen to 5 percent. At the opposite end of the scale, 81 percent of 1950’s respondents reported waking up by 7:00, while 73 percent of last month’s respondents said the same. As for Saturdays, 5 percent slept past 9:00 in 1950, versus 14 percent in last month’s poll.
Gallup also reported on TV-viewing habits of the past two decades. As you can see from the chart, a plurality of Americans claim to watch less than three hours per day. The current figure is a bit higher than in 1981, when 38 percent said they watch as little. Also in that year, 37 percent said they watch three to four hours daily, while 25 percent confessed to watching more than four hours a day.

TO YOUR HEALTH: Another Category Poised To Join the Online Fun
Although it has been a “late bloomer,” the online healthcare market will flourish in the next few years, according to a study by Forrester Research of Cambridge, Mass. On the retail side, the study forecasts online sales will reach $22 billion by 2004. Prescription drugs will take in $15 billion of that total, helped along by resolution of “reimbursement and liability issues” among Web pharmacies, doctors and insurance carriers. Retail sales of “nutraceuticals” will chip in another $3.3 billion, while over-the-counter drugs will add $1.9 billion. In terms of sheer tonnage, though, the real action will be on the business-to-business side of the healthcare market. Forrester predicts that $348 billion of the trade will have migrated to the Web by 2004. “These efforts will be driven by the need to control costs, improve information flow and gain transaction efficiency,” says the report. This market will include “everything from drugs to capital equipment.” Medical claims will be the biggest chunk, though, as insurance firms and HMOs “turn to the Internet to improve claims efficiency.”

MATURE AT LAST: It Couldn’t Happen To a Nicer Category
If you’ve been waiting to see “SUV” and “maturity” in the same sentence, this is your day, courtesy of a report from J.D. Power and Associates. “With incentives being offered on some SUV models, there is an early indication that the SUV market may be reaching maturity, despite the best efforts of manufacturers to diversify the segment.” Actually, it was inevitable that the pace of SUV growth would slow, given that the category already accounts for one in every five vehicles sold in the U.S. And the sales total for last year is expected to top 3 million units. Thus, the double-digit growth rates of the ’90s will give way to single-digit growth in the new decade, predicts J.D. Power. It also forecasts that “crossover” SUVs–i.e., those built on a car platform rather than on the segment’s original truck platform–will grow to account for one-fourth of all SUV sales by 2005. The crossover niche is becoming popular because those vehicles provide a more car-like ride.
A separate report from the Agoura Hills, Calif.-based research firm notes that “upper-midsize cars” are gaining sales among shoppers who came to dealerships intending to buy either an SUV or a luxury car. (It mentions the Honda Accord and the Volkswagen Passat as upper-midsize examples.) Money is a crucial factor in this trend. “Thirty-seven percent of both luxury and SUV shoppers in 1999 decided not to buy a certain model due to price/financing issues, and nearly 15 percent turned to the upper-midsize car segment.” As it is, two of every five vehicles sold in the U.S. now has a price tag in excess of $25,000.

MIXED BLESSINGS: The Poseidon Adventure, A Fear of Inaccuracy, How to Insult Women, Etc.
Clearly, airlines should start seating people in “gregarious” and “ungregarious” sections. A CNN Interactive online poll posed the query: “Are you a gregarious traveler?” Nearly equal numbers answered “No. I keep to myself mostly” (37 percent) and “A little. I like to chat” (38 percent). Then there were the terrors of the skies, the 25 percent who said, “Yes. I love to meet new people.” Sort these types accordingly and we’ll all be happier.

Looking for a can’t-miss way to cut through the clutter? Have your ad say something nice about polka music. Sincerely nice. At the very least, it will give the brand a contrarian cachet. An ad for eFalcon, a company that provides “risk management” services for e-commerce retailers, takes the more conventional path as it ridicules the genre. Or, more precisely, the ad takes it for granted that readers already find the polka ridiculous. It’s probably correct. But why is that so? There certainly are worse musical forms running loose. And when’s the last time you heard of polka ensembles trashing their hotel rooms? The ad was created by Big Band Idea Engineering of Del Mar, Calif.–not, evidently, one of the nation’s polka hotbeds.

Honors for Best Use of Greek Mythology in TV-Sports Spots go this week to a campaign promoting ESPN2 coverage of this year’s America’s Cup yacht races. In one spot, the sailors of an American boat must fend off an unexpected attack by Poseidon, who rises out of the deep and hurls boulders at them. (Shades of the recent anti-American rioting in Athens.) In another spot, two sirens sing their enchanting song to lure the sailors toward rocks that would smash their boat. Only by covering their ears do the lads manage to escape. Ground Zero of Marina Del Rey, Calif., created the spots. (Did somebody there get an Edith Hamilton book for his birthday?) If the campaign succeeds in putting yacht races on the TV-sports map, we’ll hope to see classical gods turning up more often in commercials.

Welcome to the misinformation age. People are worried about all the ways in which information about them might be turned to their disadvantage–say, to defraud them or deny them credit. But a new Harris Poll finds they’re more likely to worry that incorrect data could do them harm. For instance, while 30 percent said they’re “very concerned” that accurate information might be used to defraud them, 42 percent fear the same outcome from inaccurate data. Similarly, 29 percent fear being denied insurance because of accurate data, while 44 percent fear that occurrence due to the inaccurate variety. As for credit ratings, inaccurate (47 percent) easily outpoints accurate (27 percent). The most intriguing info-tidbit: 28 percent fear that inaccurate information might be used to embarrass them, while 20 percent fear accurate information would suit that malevolent purpose.

Good news for unqualified job seekers! A study by Management Recruiters International says a continuing shortage of qualified employees “will remain the overwhelming concern of American business.” According to the Cleveland-based search firm, just under 50 percent of the executives polled said the job-candidate shortage is “the greatest threat to the continued success of their companies in the next century.”

While this is a good time to find a new job, people may be too busy dieting to update their rƒsumƒs. Polling to determine the relative popularity of common New Year’s resolutions, Yankelovich found 40 percent of respondents saying they expect to lose weight in 2000. Just 23 percent expect to seek a new job, while 15 percent said they will quit smoking.

Nothing like cold weather to make television look better. A recent poll conducted via the Parent Soup Web site asked, “What is your family’s favorite winter-time activity?” A plurality (23 percent) cited “watching TV,” while “being outdoors” was the runner-up (19 percent). “Reading” (16 percent) edged out “computer/video games” by less than a full percentage point.

Remember when museums were boring and proud of it? There was something to be said for that regime, as it helped impart the useful lesson that important things aren’t necessarily exciting things. Now, museums of all sorts understand themselves to be in the entertainment business, and that has yielded some entertaining ads. The piece for the Houdini Historical Center in Appleton, Wis., gives a suitably modern spin to the escape artist. BVK/McDonald of Milwaukee was the agency. And the ad for the Science Museum of Minnesota proves brain power can light up a sign more reliably than wind power. (The generator isn’t real.) Gabriel Diericks Razidlo of Minneapolis created the billboard.

Here’s more evidence, were any needed, that feminism is in need of rebranding. When a CBS News poll last month asked women whether they feel the women’s movement has made their lives better, 48 percent said it has–up from 43 percent in 1997 and from 25 percent in 1983. But when asked, “Do you consider yourself a feminist?” all of 20 percent said they do. That’s down from 26 percent in 1997 and 31 percent in 1992. Along the same lines, when women were asked whether they consider “feminist” a compliment, an insult or a neutral term, “insult” beat “compliment” by a margin of 22 percent to 8 percent.