Mark Dolliver
MIXED EMOTIONS: Modern Motherhood and Its Discontents
Let’s say you’re the mother of young kids. You see a commercial in which a woman beams with delight as her tykes frolic around her. If the advertiser has caught you on a good day, this scene will strike a rapport with you. But there’s also a good chance it will alienate you. As a reader survey by Sesame Street Parents makes clear, many mothers are facing the fact that their lot is not an easy one. In one of the poll’s most striking findings, nearly one-third of the respondents said motherhood has brought on a decline in their self-esteem. (Weight gain caused by pregnancy is often cited as a factor.) Motherhood also compels women to make choices for which they then feel judged by other women. That tendency manifests itself in the divide between mothers who work outside the home and those who don’t. Forty-two percent of respondents said these cohorts “misunderstand” each other, and 24 percent said mothers in the two groups “envy” each other. As if this aspect of motherhood weren’t troublesome enough, there are the kids to deal with! Remarking on their tendency to “lose it,” 37 percent identified their kids as “the likeliest source of your anger.” On the other hand, 43 percent left their kids off the hook and instead blamed “the pace of modern life.” All of this would be easier to cope with if what the magazine terms “mixed emotions” about motherhood were socially acceptable. As it is, mothers often feel they’re inviting reproach if they sound less than bubbly about their role. Their husbands, meanwhile, may be oblivious to their feelings. Forty percent of mothers said “they don’t think their partner knows how much they need his help” and 30 percent “wish their mate knew how hard they work all day.” The thing respondents are “least happy about” in their lives is “not having enough time for themselves,” a lament expressed by 47 percent.

CARS NEED WORK, THOUGH: Plaudits for Brand U.S.A.
True, the U.S. has been posting record-high trade deficits lately. But it’s not because the rest of the world thinks ill of American-made goods and services. Asked by Angus Reid Group to rank the global competition in key categories, survey respondents in 17 countries gave the U.S. high marks. The automotive sector was the notable exception. And the surprise there was that Europe edged out Asia-Pacific in the minds of respondents. Among Americans polled, four in 10 said the U.S. makes the best cars, while 38 percent picked Asia-Pacific and 18 percent gave top honors to Europe. Not surprisingly, global respondents said the U.S. makes the best movies, with 80 percent expressing that opinion (versus 11 percent opting for Europe and 3 percent for Asia-Pacific). Even among respondents in France, the U.S. “dominated” the cinematic sector. For all the furor about American-made “Frankenfoods,” the U.S. led the field easily in the edible category.

MIXED BLESSINGS: The Menace of Kid TV, Developing Traction, Etc.
Potential grist for an ad campaign on behalf of America’s dental professionals: A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll asked people which they’d prefer to undergo: a root canal or an IRS audit. Root canal was the easy winner, by a margin of 51 percent to 34 percent, with the remaining 15 percent too pained by the topic to summon a response.

Our pick this week as Sign We Most Hope Alan Greenspan Doesn’t See appears in an ad for

The Berkeley Daily Planet. No matter how effective ads in that California paper are, a $41.99 egg–even of “any style”–would indicate serious inflation is afoot. Katsin/Loeb of San Francisco created the piece.

One more reason to hope kids don’t watch too much TV: As summarized in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, a recent study found 47 percent of children’s shows “depicted at least one instance of unsafe, imitable behavior without consequences.” And one-third of the shows studied had more than three such instances. A majority of kid shows on cable (57 percent) featured unsafe behaviors, as did 23 percent of the children’s programs on public television.
Why hire some high-priced athlete to endorse a brand of shoes when you can get a bug to do it or free? At any rate, a mosquito does an exemplary job of demonstrating the traction one gets by wearing Five Ten climbing shoes. Another ad in the series shows a pair of Five Tens climbing a wall on their own, without any feet (human, insect of otherwise) in them. Fahlgren of Tampa, Fla., is the agency.

Brimming with confidence about your abilities? It could be a telltale sign that you’re incompetent. In an article in the current issue of Lingua Franca, writer Jim Holt reviews the literature on the subject and reports that the only people free of overconfidence are the clinically depressed. Overconfidence is rife among those who are incompetent, since they’re not sharp enough to notice their self-confidence is misplaced. Expertise doesn’t necessarily save one from this fate. “Overconfidence may decrease with competence,” says the article, “but other studies show that it increases with knowledgeability; that is, the more specialized information you have about something, the more likely you are to be overconfident in your judgments about it.”

DEAD ISSUE: Not Losing Much Sleep About the Big Sleep
Death be not proud: You’re not as top-of-mind as money, sex, food and other human concerns. The chart below draws on polling by the Los Angeles Times. In a breakdown by age group, 18-44-year-olds were more likely than their elders to say they think about death very often (11 percent, versus 6 percent of the 45-54s, 5 percent of the 55-64s and 8 percent of those 65 and up). Men were a bit more likely than women (11 percent versus 9 percent) to say they never think about death.
Death also managed lackluster numbers when the poll asked respondents whether they’re afraid to die. Just 14 percent said they are. Among other things, this suggests public-service ads (relating to cigarettes, drugs, AIDS, drunk driving, etc.) will make limited headway if they focus on the risk of death. Women were more likely than men (15 percent to 12 percent) to say they fear death. But the widest gap on this question was between respondents who are married (12 percent) and those who are unmarried (20 percent).
Perhaps people are unfazed by the idea of death because they don’t believe it’s the end of the line. When asked to say “what happens after death,” 5 percent answered, “Nothing, you just die.” A slim plurality (33 percent) said they “don’t think about it”; 32 percent expect to “go to heaven or hell” and 11 percent think they’ll “go to a higher place.” If the 3 percent who believe in reincarnation are correct, creatives could come back as suits–and vice versa.