Passive Resistance:
Just Wake Us When This Interactive Stuff Is Easier
Now that people are back from vacation and again hard at work, it’s time to remark on their inveterate laziness. Let’s face it: Sloth wouldn’t have made the cut as one of the seven deadly sins were it not so common. Along these lines, a report by Forrester Research of Cambridge, Mass., says interactive TV will catch on as a mass phenomenon only when it offers “lazy interactivity.” In providing interactivity that requires people to be active, early purveyors of such fare have “completely misunderstood the promise of the new medium.” Providers must tailor interactive programming to fit “short-attention-span TV viewers”–or, as a Forrester analyst puts it, “viewers who have a remote in one hand and a beer in the other.” Success will come when interactivity can engage viewers “without demanding too much thought or effort.” This insight is more broadly applicable, of course. People are also prone to laziness when it comes to zapping, grasping elaborate jokes, sifting through layers of irony, etc. When advertising is interactive–i.e., in the sense of asking people to make complex connections–it’s asking for trouble.

Time Off:
It’s Owner Day, Too
Entrepreneurs may not take a break when a holiday like Labor Day rolls around. But they aren’t averse to seeing their corporate counterparts get a breather. In a poll conducted for Sprint Business, owners and managers of small businesses were asked to name the CEO who most deserves a long weekend. Southwest Airline’s Herb Kelleher led the pack, cited by 32 percent of respondents, with Bill Gates (25 percent) the runner-up. (So, not everyone views Gates as the devil incarnate.) Oprah Winfrey and Michael Eisner also scored well in the balloting. As for themselves, 46 percent of respondents said they would be taking Labor Day off.

Not-So-Hot August:
Adding Up Adweek’s Classified Ads For Jobs
The market for stocks isn’t the only one experiencing volatility. After showing fresh vigor in July, the market for jobs in advertising, marketing and media sank into a midsummer torpor last month, judging by the volume of help-wanted ads in Adweek.

Squeezing The Tube:
Of Course, There May Be Viewers Who Love Clutter
As one of ABC’s self-promotion ads says of network TV, it comes to the viewer free of charge. That’s very nice in its way, but it means the networks don’t have the flexibility other marketers enjoy of cutting prices to boost consumption of their wares. Leaving aside the option of improving their product, they have little choice but to increase the tonnage of their advertising. And that brings us to the topic of clutter. A study by Los Angeles-based research firm PhaseOne finds a 36.5 percent increase between 1991 and 1998 in the number of promos in network prime time. The rise in the number of such messages has outpaced the increase in time allotted to them, as networks have come to use 5-, 10- and 15-second promos for their shows. But this, too, adds to the viewer’s sense of clutter, the study notes. The percentage of nonprogramming prime-time minutes devoted to commercials has remained nearly unchanged since 1991, inching up from 59.9 percent then to 60.1 percent now. Meanwhile, the average duration of a commercial has hovered around 30 seconds. The one nonprogramming category to show a decline is the humble station I.D., which accounted for 5.6 percent of nonprogramming time in 1991 but a mere 1 percent in the current year.

Slump City:
Eating Your Way Out
If you need a 23-year-old colleague to accomplish a crucial task, don’t set a morning deadline. A survey conducted for PowerBar by Market Facts finds that a plurality of 18-24-year-olds experience their lowest energy levels between 8 and 10 a.m. Among people in the 25-34 and 35-44 brackets, slumps tend to come between 1 and 3 p.m., while 45-54-year-olds are most apt to fade between 3 and 5 p.m. The chart below summarizes findings on the snacks people use to rev themselves up. Women are slightly more likely than men to eat fruit at such times–by a margin of 30 percent to 27 percent.

Mixed Blessings:
Parental Role Models, Larcenous Gardeners, Downhill Impiety, Etc.

Oddball factoid of the week: Responding to a reader survey by BabyTalk magazine, 11 percent of new parents picked Marge and Homer Simpson as the TV mother and father they most resemble. A more modest 69 percent said they identify with the couple in Mad About You.

Plenty of ads now include a Web address. But few of those addresses tell people to get lost. Credit a Northern Telecom ad (via Temerlin McClain in Dallas) for going that extra mile. Actually, the ad concludes a pitch for Nortel’s call-center technology with the company’s own inoffensive Web address. But what if curiosity prompts you to type in the inhospitable letters featured in the headline? You’ll find that the clever Nortel folks have made that address the home of an online version of the print ad, complete with a link that leads you into the company’s interactive clutches. By the way, Web addresses of this ilk aren’t as freely available as you might suppose. www.scram.com and www.takeahike.com are taken, while www.goaway.com is for sale. But www.anddon’tcomeback.com is yours for the taking. Being a publication of refined sensibility, we’ll let our more venturesome readers find out for themselves whether ruder dismissives are in use on the Web.

Chances are, nobody grows up saying, “Someday I’ll earn my living by devising puns on the word ‘Berber.’ ” But it’s all in a day’s work when you toil for an agency whose client roster includes a chain of carpet stores. Copy in this latest ad for Einstein Moomjy promises that you’ll find a Berber “to harmonize perfectly with your home decorating scheme.” The GFS/Levinson Group of New York created the ad.

It would be hard to think of any avocation that enjoys a better reputation than gardening. Without losing its aura of down-to-earth folksiness, it has managed to take on upscale overtones as well. But if you live next door to an avid gardener, beware. In a poll conducted for Gardener magazine, nearly one-third of gardening enthusiasts admit they’ve stolen a flower at least once in their lifetime.

If you’re weary of the ads for back-to-school sales, you can take heart from a trend in public education. Statistics assembled by the National Association for Year-Round Education show a steady rise in the number of school districts adopting a schedule that chops up the traditional summer vacation and distributes it more evenly throughout the year. The number of students hewing to the year-round schedule approached 2 million in 1997-98. If the trend continues, perhaps it will extinguish the expectation that parents must buy their kids a new wardrobe–plus a fully equipped pencil box–at the end of every August.

Lest anyone think Saving Private Ryan has initiated an era of filial (or grandfilial) piety toward the nation’s World War II veterans, an ad for K2 skis offers a reality check. In the ’90s, irreverence will trump reverence every time. Likewise, the old taboo about fooling around with the American flag in advertising has fallen by the wayside. Another ad in the K2 campaign (via Hammerquist & Saffel of Seattle) emphasizes the flag motif by invoking Betsy Ross as a posthumous celebrity endorser for the brand. Whether patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels, mockery of its traditional trappings remains a reflex in youth-oriented pop culture.