Y2k Who? Thanks But No Thanks For The Information
There’s nothing like a crisis to bring out people’s imaginative side. Sixteen percent of respondents to a Gallup poll said they’ll probably withdraw all their money from the bank before the Y2K bug scrambles their accounts. Likewise, 26 percent said they’ll stockpile food and water, while 17 percent intend to buy a generator or wood stove before Jan. 1, 2000, plunges them into frosty darkness. Will so many people truly do all these things? Doubtful. But stating an intention gives them the pleasant illusion they’ve prepared for all eventualities. For a reality check, consider a study of small-business owners–presumably a take-charge, get-it-done bunch. Polling conducted among small companies for the National Federation of Independent Business finds that nearly one-third of those vulnerable to Y2K have done nothing whatsoever about it. Another 5 percent aren’t even aware there is such a thing as a Y2K problem. This isn’t as surprising as it may seem. Amid all the chatter about an Information Age, we overlook people’s capacity for ignoring information they don’t care to deal with. And who is to say it’s not a useful skill? Worrywarts may disparage those who stick their heads in the sand, but it’s hard to argue that Chicken Little leads a happier life than the average ostrich.

Buy-and-Buy: Shopping on the Edge
If “just in time” inventory control is good enough for U.S. manufacturers, it’s good enough for U.S. shoppers. Post-Christmas figures show that a surge of last-minute buying was the key to holiday sales gains for retailers. And that’s becoming a typical pattern. Indeed, a recent story in The New York Times quotes a Wal-Mart official as saying the trend extends beyond Christmas, citing back-to-school shopping as another instance of a broader phenomenon: “People are generally buying closer to need.” Consumer-goods marketers will want to think about rejiggering their ad schedules accordingly. With any luck, that might spare us the torrent of Christmas-present ads before the Thanksgiving turkey has gotten cold.

Mixed Blessings
Those Popular Obits, Good Reception, Etc.
We expect boring products to adopt the guise of exciting products–not the other way around. But an ad for Yamaha uses the counterintuitive ploy to good effect in introducing the company’s new touring motorcycle as a “long distance carrier.” So relieved are we not to be getting another phone company sales pitch that we’ll gladly do whatever Yamaha asks of us. Marshall Advertising & Design of Newport Beach, Calif., created the piece.

No wonder folks are a bit glum. In a study conducted for Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, 40 percent of newspaper readers said they consult the obituaries every day, outnumbering the 37 percent who read the comics.

Let us not to the marriage of true minds admit musical impediments. A campaign for a DJ service mimics wedding announcements to stress that the client can devise a pleasing mix of music for even the motliest marital crew. In this case, the music was “a seamless combination of Metallica, Nine Inch Nails and Celine Dion.” The groom is identified as drummer for a band called Suck the Marrow. And the bride? “She is currently employed as a media planner at Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos.” Partners & Simons of Boston had fun creating this one.
Want to get in on the ground floor of a new market? Consider the unfidgety. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic issued a study earlier this month that found fidgeting to be the reason why some people stay thin despite a diet that makes others gain weight. The people who did the most squirming, stretching and such had the smallest gains in weight when fed an extra 1,000 calories a day. They revved up their rate of “non-exercise activity thermogenesis” to burn the surplus calories. Is there hope for those who aren’t natural fidgeters?A Reuters dispatch on the study said scientists believe “it might be possible to help people to fidget more throughout their days, and keep the weight off.” Any marketer worth his salt will see the unfidgety as potential customers for all sorts of products and services that induce fidgetiness. You can bet someone is already working on a bestseller-to-be with a title like Fidget Your Way to a Slimmer You! And if it’s the sort of dull tome that leaves a reader restlessly squirming, so much the better.

That’s The Plan: Men Just Want To Have (More) Fun
Self-improvement is women’s work, to judge by the results of a Yankelovich survey about people’s plans for the new year. At any rate, more women than men express an intention of shaping up themselves and/or their impedimenta, while men are more apt to say they aim to have a good time before the world comes to an end. Given the unrelenting emphasis pop culture puts on personal enjoyment, it’s impressive that so many of the respondents refrained from saying they plan to have more fun in 1999. These people may not be barrels of laughs, but they’ve got independent spirit. Likewise, let us doff our hats to the 46 percent of respondents who admit they “don’t really give a lot of thought to my goals and ambitions.” Those folks stand as brave holdouts against the “planning mindset” that Yankelovich finds to be “relatively widespread” in the ’90s.

Passion Plea: Those Unsightly Moneybags Are Such a Turnoff
Bad news for marketers of financial services: 54 percent of women say that wealth does not increase a man’s sexual allure. And 48 percent of men say the same of wealthy women. Perhaps this is why ads for mutual funds are so sadly lacking in sexual imagery. The statistics come from Glamour magazine’s “1998 Passion Poll,” where you’ll also find people’s response to the urgent question: Can passion last forever? Majorities of women (80 percent) and men (60 percent) believe it can. Elsewhere in the survey, 44 percent of women and 48 percent of men confessed they have “done outrageous things in the heat of passion”–though perhaps not as outrageous as answering a lot of personal questions from some nosy pollster.