AD SUBTERFUGES WILL BACKFIRE; NOW'S SQUEEZE WORKED; PENNY WISE...; THE FRENCH ADVANTAGE; BACK WOMEN'S BASEBALL

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I admire Buena Vista's clever use of television to promote its films. However, I seriously question NBC-TV's judgment in allowing Buena Vista to regularly air a series of commercials on the "Today" show that many unsuspecting viewers assume is an NBC news segment.

Each day, a voiceover encourages viewers to watch the "Movie News Special Report," and then presents an actor seated at a "news anchor-type" desk who introduces one or more vignettes from the company's current film releases. The identity of the sponsor is revealed only briefly at the end of each spot with a small super, "Paid for by Buena Vista." This disclaimer is unlikely to be noticed by most viewers, particularly because the camouflaged commercials are sandwiched between regular "Today" show programming segments.

Buena Vista's ingenious effort to blur the distinction between advertising and programming is part of a growing trend. Advertisers are struggling to find effective ways to respond to the growing challenge of reaching TV audiences equipped with remote switchers and mute buttons. Increasingly, they are resorting to devious promotional methods, hoping they can beguile the consumer into noting their commercial messages.

The use of these and other promotional subterfuges, like infomercials and video news releases, probably does help them achieve their communications goals in the short run. However, I believe viewers will ultimately start to recognize and resent these advertising deceptions, reacting negatively to both their sponsors and the media that permit them to be used.

Eugene Secunda

Asst. professor of marketing

Adelphi University

Garden City, N.Y.

Congratulations on your article "Citrus exits Limbaugh, NOW sees still more ad villains" (AA, July 25). I do, however, believe that the National Organization for Women and others did have a major impact on the Florida Department of Citrus decision to can Rush. Accounting for the high orange juice sales and attributing that to Mr. Limbaugh is, I believe, unfounded.

Remember that sales and profits from orange juice are based on availability, pricing and packaging. No doubt sales from spring orange juice would bear higher pricing from weather conditions previously, with consumers paying higher prices on less juice.

Perhaps without choosing Mr. Limbaugh as a spokesperson for orange juice the citrus department may have had its best sales ever. Hopefully other corporations and marketers will realize that we can actively and nationally put the squeeze on.

Betsy Marshall

President

Ohio NOW

Eaton, Ohio

Penny wise ...

Your Aug. 22 issue reports huge growth in network TV ad revenues-up 12% to $6.1 billion in the first half of 1994.

The same issue has an editorial on some problems with companies doing magazine audience research. Nothing new here-this has been a recurring theme over the years.

It never ceases to amaze me that advertisers (and their agencies) will spend billions, accepting at face value highly questionable broadcast audience data, yet place a constant microscope on print audience data.

Ed Stern

Evanston, Ill.

Editor's note: Mr. Stern was formerly a media executive at Foote, Cone & Belding.

Thank you for your story on the direct mail campaign of Oliver North (AA, Aug. 15). I found it particularly interesting when juxtaposed with two articles in the same issue bemoaning some of the serious ills in our society, one of which is lack of education.

I lived in France for several years and count many teachers among my French friends. Although James Brady may be correct in saying in his column that French children have longer school days, he is not quite accurate when he states that they have a longer school year. Yes, school ends for the summer at the end, rather than the beginning, of June, but French school children have far more vacation days than their American counterparts, including, in addition to traditional Christmas and Easter holidays, two weeks in November, two in February and one or more days per week during the month of May.

It is wrong to imply that our schools are in the mess they are in because we don't demand enough of our children, don't make them work hard or long enough-in essence, because we just won't crack the whip. Our problems are complex, but France has the excellent public educational system it does because of national education standards set by the national government and funded nationally, the very type of system right-wingers like Oliver North are working to undermine all over the country.

That they are succeeding is perhaps due in large part to just the kind of techniques you describe in your article on him, techniques that belong more properly to the field of advertising. They will only be brought under control in the political arena, better allowing for true, more reasoned debate, when we reform our campaign finance laws, another area in which we would do well to emulate our European neighbors.

As it stands now, political candidates are bought and sold in this country in much the same way as any other purchased good, and the man with the biggest advertising budget, not necessarily the best product, wins. More and more, the rest of us are losing.

Thank you for your thought-provoking articles.

Pamela Gilbert-Snyder

Houston, Texas

The Major League Baseball strike has given minor league baseball the boost it needs. It's also time for women's baseball to receive more of the spotlight.

Up to now, women's baseball leagues have been ghost leagues, interest spurred only by word of mouth and a few articles. The movie "A League of Their Own" has inspired a new generation of baseball enthusiasts. Women who traditionally fill their summer with softball have added baseball to their schedules.

Women's leagues have sprung up all over the nation, and the Colorado Silver Bullets, the nation's only pro team, is completing its first season.

Women's baseball is more than the Silver Bullets, however. Perhaps they are more than a marketing ploy, creating genuine interest as they tour the nation challenging men's college and semi-pro teams. But true women's baseball isn't a battle of the sexes; most players have no intention of playing men's teams. It's just good fundamental ball with nothing to prove.

Chicago boasts the oldest established league. ... The city's American Women's Baseball Association fields players from all professions, and not since the 1940s, during the heyday of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, has interest been so high.

Now teams are filling the dugouts weekly in many states, and more teams and leagues are on the rise. Best of all, the All-American Women's Baseball League is set to begin play in June 1995.

And wouldn't it be great if advertisers jumped on the women's baseball bandwagon? Not that I'd want just anything emblazoned across my chest, but any of the gender-specific products would have a unique and very appreciative audience.

Yes, women's baseball is back. And this time it's our idea, our dream and our future.

Brenda Bowyer

AWBA member

South Bend, Ind.

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