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Wally Snyder's letter about the American Advertising Federation Diversity Summit (Letters to the Editor, AA, Aug. 3), and Alfred L. Schreiber's article "Defining the `New America' " (Forum, AA, Aug. 3) address a key issue in the advertising community: researching a diverse America. But to reach an audience, you must do more than market research and hand down mandates to creative directors and media executives on target marketing.

The doors to the communications industry must open wider to recruit from the growing minority pool of students. Once recruited, we need to move further to create training programs that provide these young professionals with access to information, developmental opportunities and challenges, and equal shots at "stretch" assignments.

A Covenant Investment Management study of the Standard & Poors 500 found the stock performance of companies that practiced diversification in the workplace was 2.4 times higher than the performance of companies that did not. It also showed that companies rated in the bottom 100 based on glass-ceiling-related measures earned an average 7.9% return on investment, compared to 18.3% for companies in the top 100.

Marion E. Gold

President, Marion Gold & Co.


Growth of focus groups

I enjoyed the excellent article in the Special Report on "100 Leading Research Companies" ("International expansion slows to 7% gain," AA, May 25). It's an important and growing area of the communications mix often overlooked by the media. Bravo to you and your editors.

In the final paragraph, the article stated "Growth for focus group research is slow in the U.S., but huge internationally and domestically." Actually, there are about 155,000 focus groups in the U.S. today. In 1990, there were approximately 110,000 focus groups. It is expected that by the early 2000s this figure will top 200,000.

I believe corporate America has rededicated itself to knowing the heart and soul of its consumers. Attending focus groups fits this goal. With the availability of new technology you can appreciate why so many organizations are turning to video conferencing of focus groups. It's a really big trend that is just beginning to blossom.

John J. Houlahan

Founder and President

FocusVision Worldwide

Stamford, Conn.

ASTA's Tim Duncan

The leadership and integrity Tim Duncan brought to the Advertiser Syndicated Television Association merited more than the brief mention some trades gave this story. His diplomacy and loyalty make him one of the most respected professionals in all of TV.

The revenue growth that his membership gained with his steadfast leadership is probably unmatched on a dollar-for-dollar basis compared to any other trade organization.

He weathered weak markets, membership defections, ratings upheaval and the diverse interests of his constituency to always focus on growing the business of TV syndication. His is a record that will be difficult to match, let alone exceed.

Brian Byrne

Byrne Enterprises

New York

Mr. Duncan resigned this summer as executive director of ASTA. The association was replaced by a new organization, the Syndicated Network Television Association, this month.

Pop culture debated

I must take issue with "Why cynicism is losing ground in popular culture" (Forum, AA, June 29).

What's missing is that our current interest in '70s retro culture is not an open, freely accepting infatuation. It is a reflexive relationship. These icons -- John Travolta, platform shoes, old TV shows -- are accepted not on their face value, but as symbols of the kitsch culture we are now supposed to be too smart to fall for.

The article also has a tendency to misidentify media works as anti-cynical, when they are, in fact, the epitome of our post-everything culture. "Scream," U2's "Pop" and "The X-Files" are all examples of products made for media-savvy audiences who know to view everything they see through a filter of media deconstruction.

The article is right to point out the cyclical nature of media, but fails to take into account the unprecedented change in our use and perception of media, the product of new media technology and the mainstreaming of decades of media theory research.

The so-called Generation X is our first truly media-literate generation. Why else do you think advertisers have had such difficulty connecting with it?

Dan Ackerman

Assistant Editor, Beverage World

New York

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