- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 2, 2002

The cushy life of victimhood is just about over: Americans have a case of comfort fatigue.
After six months of cocooning, nesting, watching nostalgic movies and eating mammoth amounts of macaroni and cheese, the country's "wimpy era of retreat" has reached the end of its shelf life in a post-September 11 world, according to one analyst.
"Are we really turning into a bunch of risk-fearing, backward looking, sunshine-averse hermits? I personally cannot wait for the story to move on," notes Mike Shine, a California advertising executive and publisher of "In Flux," a trend forecasting newsletter (www.influx.bsands.com).
Mr. Shine is annoyed by Britney Spears emulating Marilyn Monroe on a Pepsi commercial, by "hippie chic" clothing and the fact that Yankee pot roast is hip fare in fancy restaurants. Enough is enough, he says.
Rediscovery of family, friends, religion and country "is a wonderful thing" in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, he acknowledges.
"People found it was appropriate to hole up and eat comfort food and watch old movies on upgraded entertainment systems," Mr. Shine explains. "Marketers are all over it."
But this reclusive posturing is a common reaction to a threat, and Mr. Shine predicts: "It will pass. Humans move forward. History says so."
Mr. Shine cautions image-conscious advertisers and retailers who think America is "in retreat" to skip the comfort trend. It's waning and the process has already begun.
Women, for example, have discovered that all that blissful comfort food can add up, September 11 or not.
A Good Housekeeping survey found that a third of the women polled said they were cooking more comfort foods since the attacks, with macaroni and cheese topping the list. And 30 percent of the respondents also said they had gained up to 10 pounds in the attacks' aftermath.
The Sacramento Bee has called September 11 a creative "social crutch," noting that people were using the attacks as an excuse not to pay bills, lose weight, quit smoking or even visit their mothers.
Since last October, President Bush has asked Americans to go about their normal business as a positive, collective response to terrorism. Vice President Richard B. Cheney even coined the phrase "new normalcy" last November. Meanwhile, much press attention, including a U.S. News & World Report special issue, hopes to define what reinvented normalcy entails.
Swept by both patriotic and nostalgic influences, the marketing realm is now venturing into a kind of clear-eyed realism. Avon cosmetics, for example, has begun a new ad campaign based upon "real women and believable promises," while swanky clothier Kenneth Cole's new ads reflect "moments that people can relate to" rather than high-fashion fantasy.
An upcoming public service announcement campaign from the Ad Council will concentrate on "highlighting our freedoms and inspiring Americans to remember what makes our country unique," according to spokesman Phil Dusenberry, also chairman of advertising giant BBDO.
"America's new pride and confidence is coming into play," says Mr. Shine. "We may find that cynicism will become uncool, that genuine emotional links are the rule. We don't need a Hollywood remake. People are looking for some fresh optimism, and that can never be boring."


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