ANTI-DRUG ADS DIDN'T HELP; UNFAIRNESS UNNEEDED; OUTDOOR SOFTWARE NOT NEW; FAULTY RESEARCH FALLOUT; IN-HOME SHOPPING LACKING; DEFENDS INFOMERCIAL PRODUCTS

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In response to the letter from Steven Frankfurt, co-chair of the creative review committee for the Partnership for a Drug-Free America (AA, May 2), consider the following:

Between 1981 and 1986, before the PDFA campaign began, regular use of any illicit drugs among high school seniors declined from 36.9% to 27.1%, or an average of 1.96% per year. Between 1987 and 1992, during the PDFA campaign, regular use of any illicit drug de- clined from 24.7% to 14.4%, or an average of 2.06% per year. During this same 1987-1992 period, federal spending on the war on drugs increased nearly tenfold, from $1 billion to more than $10 billion. Despite the combined efforts of the PDFA campaign and the federal war on drugs, the difference between the rates of decline during these two periods is insignificant.

Furthermore, during its first three years, the PDFA campaign garnered about $150 million per year in broadcast time and print space. Illicit drug use declined at abut 2.5% per year during this time. During the next thee years (1990-1992), the amount of broadcast time and print space donated to the PDFA more than doubled, to about $365 million per year. But the rate of decline in drug use slowed down, dropping to only 1.6% per year. In fact, in 1992, at the height of spending on the PDFA campaign, four independent national surveys showed small but significant increases in illicit drug use across the country. In 1993, when PDFA output dropped back to its 1987-1989 levels, illicit drug use continued to rise.

If anything, the evidence shows that there is no relationship at all between Partnership output and rates of drug use in the country. Mr. Frankfurt's letter demonstrates the PDFA's persistent cavalier and self-serving disregard for facts. The PDFA campaign does more harm than good when superficial panaceas are passed off as serious responses to America's wrenching alcohol and other drug problems.

David R. Buchanan

University of Massachusetts

School of Public Health

& Health Sciences

Amherst, Mass.

"Isn't honest enough?"-a fine editorial (AA, April 25). Well done. I'm with you-98% of the way.

You mention children. Right! A special case.

But an ad is not truthful if it deceives the audience to which it is addressed. Thus the Federal Trade Commission does not need extra "unfairness" powers. Special standards for small children (maybe even senile old codgers) are possible right now.

You also mention razor blades in the mail-once more, right on! Nefarious-a reckless disregard of public health and safety.

But aren't such matters best left to the cops, post office or the FBI? Criminal behavior deserves more than the slow moving, "sin no more" justice, appropriate to the FTC.

However, Congress, you tell me, has decided, and FTC will soon be free to challenge truthful advertising. Too bad. But there will be a new Congress. And, as you say, it is a "bad decision." Shouldn't all of us, Ad Age included, keep saying so?

Peter Allport

Bronxville, N.Y.

The item in the April 18 issue, "New software for outdoor could expand industry," implies that the software described is unique.

For a number of years Market Information Services of America has provided software that maps outdoor campaigns, provides reach frequency figures and "rides the boards" via PC-based videos. Furthermore, MISA's system Outdoor Demotrack is the only software in the world, that we are aware of, that can select specific outdoor advertising panels to best reach a particular target audience.

Our systems, currently used by progressive companies like Naegele Outdoor and Revere National, also have the advantages that they are based on American practice, run on any medium-cost IBM-compatible PC and are fully supported through a toll-free number.

J.E. Ashwood

President, Market Information

Services of America

Rolling Meadows, Ill.

The decade of the 1980s was a boom time for most sectors of the U.S. economy, but during this growth era, corporate America began to lose touch with its customers.

How can it be that companies lost the pulse of their most valuable resource while spending more money to talk to them? The answer lies in the type of research being conducted. During the '80s the "in" research was to conduct focus groups, a technique whereby 10 to 12 people are gathered to examine and discuss pre-selected issues.

The problem came when the resulting research was misapplied. Corporate America found itself making strategic decisions based upon the feelings of two, three or four dozen consumers. The error factor of such conclusions is astronomical.

Many Fortune 500 companies now find themselves faced with declining market share caused by strategic errors based on error-ridden research.

It's time to get back to the basics. To succeed in today's world you must know your customers inside out-wants, needs and hot buttons. In many cases, you must know what they want before they themselves know they want it.

Company leaders should ask themselves: "Is my company really trying to grow or are we simply trying to keep the doors open until the economy turns around?" Until corporations move decisively to fulfill their customers' needs with an innovative and fresh marketing approach, the U.S. economy will not experience solid growth, and our successes will be severely limited.

Britt Beemer

Chairman

America's Research Group

Charleston, S.C.

I must comment on the story about home shopping for package goods ("Speed & ease drive store of the future," AA, May 2).

As the editor/publisher of a newsletter about packaging as a marketing tool for consumer products, I've interviewed and listened to presentations by proponents of the various in-home shopping systems. I've always come away realizing that they've missed something.

Much of what the packaging of consumer goods is about is tactile. Subliminally if not consciously, shoppers are as influenced by the way a package feels in the hand as by its graphics. The slipperiness of a sleekly metalized snacks bag, the clarity of a crystalline-plastic shampoo bottle, the squeezability of a new kind of ketchup container, the solid upscale heft of a thick glass cosmetics jar-these selling points simply do not come through on any computer screen.

It's not easy to get consumers to admit that they're often stimulated to buy a product by the aesthetics of its package, but they are. Truer words were never spoken: The package is the product.

Greg Erickson

Editor/publisher

Shelf Presence

Buffalo Grove, Ill.

Bob Garfield's article on the "infomercial ghetto" (AA, April 11) contends that the infomercial industry produces schlock products and sells them to unwitting consumers to whom they have no benefit. We disagree with his entire premise and believe the facts support our view.

As Advertising Age frequently reports, Fortune 500 companies' and ad agencies' entry into the infomercial arena is a reflection on the effectiveness of the format, not its ability to dupe late-night television surfers. The infomercial industry has blossomed into a $1 billion industry; consumers are not all so stupid as to spend that much money on schlock.

According to the Jordan Whitney Report, a leading industry journal, fitness equipment has been the dominant category in infomercials for more than two years. Fitness equipment by its nature delivers only benefits to its users, making Mr. Garfield's contention of uselessness somewhat off the mark.

Weight loss and motivation are also among the most successful categories in infomercial sales. Our company has more than 1 million customers who have bought our products and frequently re-order them. These customers, and American consumers in general, are not suckers and never have been.

Greg Renker

Principal

Guthy-Renker Corp.

Palm Desert, Calif.

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