JORDAN'S SWINGS LIKE THE GAP; REMNICK HAS TOUGH ROW TO HOE

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My favorite ads so far this year have been the Gap TV commercials showing a bunch of exuberant dancers rocking and swinging to tunes like "Jump, Jive and Wail," "Busy Child" and "Getting It Off." The dancers are clad in T-shirts and khakis, and their gyrations demonstrate in a very entertaining and effective way how Gap khakis are not only cool, but how they look and hold up under every possible position.

Now, in a rather blatant ripoff, Jordan's Furniture stores, a Boston-area chain of four stores, has copied the Gap spots in almost every detail. The Jordan's commercial shows a bunch of exuberant dancers swinging to "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me)." They are all wearing shirts and khakis, but at the end of the spot they fall into a big leather sofa and chair, presumably the kind that you can buy at Jordan's. The super at the end reads "Jordan's swings," the same thing the Gap claims for its khakis. The Jordan's people don't seem concerned about the similarity.

"Unless they have a copyright on dancing" Jordan's doesn't see any problem, Heather Copelas, director of PR, told me. "We took their concept and did our own version." Their version, it must be added, ends with the two owners, brothers Barry and Eliot Tatelman, sitting on a sofa. Other Jordan's commercials have the brothers doing a backflip off a sofa, going through a carwash on a sofa, going up on a ski chairlift on a sofa, etc.

"There's no confusion here," Heather contended. "It's very apparent it's our commercial. We really didn't think about it any deeper than that."

The Gap and its legal department, by the way, are aware of the Jordan's commercial.

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There is a move afoot by some consumers to live a simpler life. No more maxing out their credit cards, no more buying stuff they don't need. PBS did a series of programs on this social phenomenon, and they called the sickness of keeping up with the Joneses "affluenza." Very catchy.

Of course, advertising shoulders much of the blame for spreading the disease. Advertising, after all, is the messenger that entices people to buy, buy, buy.

Never mind that magazines and movies, showing characters leading the good life, serve the same purpose; advertising is the main culprit.

Back in 1961, legendary adman Rosser Reeves, in his book "Reality in Advertising," refutes this contention.

Advertising's job, he wrote, is not to create new desires or fill the pipeline with useless products. "The true role of advertising is exactly that of the first salesman ever hired by the first manufacturer-to get business away from his competitors."

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No wonder The New Yorker continues to have problems. Tina Brown edited the magazine as if it were a weekly version of Vanity Fair.

I'm sure the thinking was that the only way to boost The New Yorker's circulation so Conde Nast could command big bucks for advertising was to broaden and enliven the editorial content to include the same kind of Hollywood political and media glitz that is the staple of Vanity Fair.

But try as it may, The New Yorker couldn't emulate all that glitz, and by moving away from its traditional position as a serious purveyor of fiction, history and analysis, The New Yorker has confused advertisers as to what it wants to be.

The new editor, David Remnick, is in a difficult position. On the one hand, he wants to get The New Yorker back to its roots with, I'm sure, some innovative updates (maybe more analysis of sports). But such editorial fare won't support the current 800,000 circulation base.

The way to bring The New Yorker into the black is to let the readership find its own level-about half its current circulation, where it was before Tina-and charge a lot more for a subscription. That's not, however, the Conde Nast way.

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