QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Are You Living Better Than Your Parents Did?
It must be frustrating to be an apostle of gloom in this country. Even as economists brandish data purporting to show a spiral of downward mobility, Americans incorrigibly persist in declaring themselves pleased with their standard of living. In a nationwide survey conducted for Adweek, people were asked whether they’re living better than their parents did at the same age. A landslide 82 percent said they are–the same percentage as in last year’s survey on this question. Among the 18 percent who didn’t answer “yes,” nearly two-thirds said they’re faring as well as their parents did. Thus, the percentage who believe they’re actually worse off than their parents were at the same age is on a par with the percentage who believe the earth is regularly visited by little men from space. The survey was conducted by Alden & Associates, a marketing research firm based in Hermosa Beach, Calif. Contrary to what you might expect (and to what class-warmongers might hope), there wasn’t a significant difference in the rate of affirmative answers from low-income and high-income households. And, cheerfully ignoring the popular image of today’s young folks as a pack of anomic malcontents, respondents in the 18-24-year-old cohort showed the highest proportion of “yes” votes (91 percent) when the figures were broken down by age group.

FAT CHANCE: Trying to Hold the Line
Judging by the weight of statistical evidence, Americans love nothing more than to settle back with a bacon cheeseburger and read a good diet book. News reports of pandemic obesity compete for our attention with polls showing that everyone and his brother is on a diet. A study by Decision Analyst of Arlington, Texas, finds that more than half of U.S. households include at least one adult who’s on a low-fat or low-cholesterol diet. As you can see from the chart, dieting is most common among people who’ve spent long years at the trough. What’s striking, though, is that dieting is nearly the norm in households headed by people whose metabolisms are still in the bloom of youth. The study found just a modest correlation between higher household income and higher incidence of dieting.

MIXED BLESSINGS: No Guts, No Glory, Persian Pejoratives, Lout of the Week, Etc.
When an ad club issues a “Call For Entrails,” you know its awards show won’t feature the usual tripe. Folks at the Advertising Association of Baltimore figured it takes guts to create great ads. So why not present the show’s host, oddball auteur John Waters, as a blood-spattered butcher? Chuck Thompson of local shop Shout was the moving force behind the sanguinary poster.

It’s a tribute to the leveling power of advertising that commercials for The New Republic can be as annoying as any for aspirin or detergents. The new spots focus on a loudmouth dolt who berates a fellow for reading the weekly’s coverage of public-policy matters. All too convincing in his role of lout, Mr. Loudmouth doesn’t care about Bosnia because he doesn’t know anyone there. The notion that someone might read an article on immigration–just words, no pictures!–strikes him as hilarious. His recurring take on the publication: “It’s not for me.” Viewers will come away convinced that The New Republic is, indeed, not the magazine for boisterous know-nothings. Granted, that’s not an ambitious positioning, but it leaves TNR ample leeway for circulation growth.
It may not have the bravura of curling or the pageantry of candlepin bowling, but that’s no reason badminton can’t have a little glamour of its own. So, let us tip our shuttlecocks to the late Leonard/Monahan of Providence, R.I., for its swan-song campaign on behalf of the Harvard Badminton Club.

Maybe the commercials were too good for the pizza. As people hash over the split between Cliff Freeman and Partners and Little Caesars, the client has been the obvious target for blame. After all, wasn’t Freeman’s work exemplary? Sure. But while excellent advertising put Little Caesars on the map, maybe it also created a mismatch between brand image and brand content. When the advertising is exceptionally good and the product is ordinary at best, that’s a formula for disappointment. Even if they explicitly promise nothing more than a good price, first-rate ads create a general expectation of quality in the product. It’s not that mediocre brands deserve mediocre ads. They may need mediocre ads. If a brand can’t live up to its advertising, people will look for one that does. Agencies that ignore this dictum are asking for trouble.