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A '95 MARKETING BEST: Breathe Right strips are those little adhesives that football and hockey players attach to their noses before going to work, a "nasal dilator" that works by opening nostrils with outside "pull" pressure. They're nothing to snort at. Ten strips will cost you $4, but NFL players have been getting them for free. Since its very modest debut in 1993, Breathe Right has become a $15 million business and is racking up tens of millions of dollars worth of free advertising from NFL games alone.

There are, however, print ads by Sietsema, Engel & Partners, Minneapolis, that show Marlene Dietrich, Alfred Hitchcock or Stan Laurel sporting the strip. Their caption: "Don't laugh. It works." Engineer Bruce Johnson invented these tapes and the brilliant marketers are Daniel E. Cohen, chairman, and Kirk Hodgdon, marketing manager, of CNS Inc., Chanhassen, Minn.

If you wonder why CNS doesn't market the tape in more than one skin shade, considering the pigmentation of the athletes who wear and promote them, my guess is: Why take away the product's TV visibility? Political correctness yields to marketing savvy. Don't laugh. It works.

THE '95 MAGAZINE: With 1995 standing as our Year for Moral Revitalization, Essence magazine is poised for a major takeoff. Its time has come. Think of it: We've had the Gingrich Revolution and its spinoffs, plus the manner in which theBlack Mens' March on Washington set forth a family values agenda, plus the outcry against Calvin Klein's over-the-top ads, the complete failure of sex-saturated Hollywood films, the demise of gangsta rap, the "enough, already!" attacks against TV's geek talk shows.

This adds up to a social and media dynamic that meshes with the editorial vision of Essence Editor in Chief Susan L. Taylor. Of her mostly black female readers, she asks: "What part will you play in helping our young lost brothers to heal, to find their way back to themselves and to the love of our tradition that binds us heart to heart?"

Articles Editor Diane Weathers, who tells me that the magazine has some provocative plans for '96, authored a profile of Johnnie Cochran for the November issue and instead of pandering to O.J.-mania, made no mention of O.J. Simpson, other than to include only his surname among Cochran's extensive client list. By focusing on Cochran's career and his life, not on The Trial or O.J., she was in sync with the magazine's sophisticated efforts to draw positive lessons from life experiences.

MEDIAMEANDERING: Why are those horoscope columns that so many magazines carry always in the back of the book? And if they're so popular, why isn't there a Horoscope Cable Network?....

Life-Goes-On-Department: Val Azzoli's record company markets Hootie & the Blowfish so he comes in No. 72 on Entertainment Weekly's "Power 101" list. And Michael Jackson is off this chart...

Sure, "Seinfeld" is still giving us some very funny diversions, but why won't they give us back George Costanza's parents?...

When HBO's "Comic Relief" special honored Steve Allen and his late-night TV comrades-in-yokks Louis Nye, Don Knotts, Tom Poston, Pat Harrington and Bill Dana, we suddenly realized why Dave Letterman is struggling. He surely needs to add a couple of zany sidekick comics to revitalize his CBS show...

BOOK REVIEW OF '95: Reviewing "Vice Versa: Bisexuality & the Eroticism of Everyday Life" in San Francisco Review of Books (Sept./Oct.), Jody Gehrman explains that she's a nice girl who "asks nice questions of Harvard professors, and writes nice reviews." But when author Marjorie Garber states that her book is not "academic" and is "accessible to anyone interested in sexuality and love," Jody isn't buying. The book should never have been published, she writes, because anyone interested in love or sex "would not waste their time wading through bucketfuls of intellectualized b...s...that has nothing to do with everyday life or eroticism." No bookjacket blurb there.

DOWner OF THE YEAR: Hands down, it's Dow Chemical. Having spent millions in corporate image advertising to help college kids forget its Vietnam War "napalm bomb" years, it's now getting hammered for punitive damages stemming from the silicone breast-implant trial. While it was Dow Corning, not Dow Chemical, that made and marketed those devices, the former went bankrupt, so the latter, having been one of the former's owners, gets to field the redirected lawsuits.

A SHOT AT `THE SHOT': Writing in New York magazine (Nov. 20) about the news media, Richard Turner has this aside: " was a pleasure to see something non-pornographic in [The New Yorker] for the first time in a couple of weeks." He was still reverberating from "The Money Shot," Susan Faludi's Oct. 30 article about the hard-core porn industry's film stars. While Ms. Faludi focused intensively, if not obsessively, on the industry's "disenfranchised men," she somehow overlooked an obvious angle: AIDS' impact, if any, on the porn business and its stars' lives.

Qs ABOUT NEWS: 1) If putting a confidential tobacco industry source on "60 Minutes" posed such serious legal problems, why couldn't Mike Wallace simply have used the source's information without referring to him or putting him on camera? It's done all the time.

2) Won't newspeople be arguing for years about The New York Daily News' decision to publish the name of the source CBS was trying to protect?

3) Did anyone in media (including myself) who considered "tortious interference" to be one of the legal profession's least threatening ploys to stymie the legitimate quest for news ever figure it would be CBS News that would find a way to give it credibility?

AND, FINALLY: To help loyal readers get ready for the 1996 political stuff, I offer a line by New York Times writer Walter Goodman about those cookie-cutter Beltway pundit TV talk show formats: "Washington veterans being even more skilled at evading than Washington journalists are at inquiring, time-wasting is probably inherent in the form."

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