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MORNINGS WITH PAULA ZAHN

How Drive Toward Better Bottom Line Changing from Madison Avenue to Main Street

Aired November 19, 2001 - 07:45   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Well if you're half way awake this morning, you probably know it is of course Thanksgiving week and thoughts are already turning to the Christmas shopping season just 36 shopping days left, but this season there's a big difference. Americans have changed since September 11th and that may include traditional shopping habits.

Let's take a look now at how the drive toward a better bottom line is changing from Madison Avenue to Main Street. Here's CNN's Garrick Utley.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARRICK UTLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There we are, consumers, 285 million engines of the economy, each with a mouth to feed, a wish to fulfill, a need to satisfy. The fate of the $10 trillion American economy, we are told, is in our hands and (INAUDIBLE). So what are we going to do about it this holiday season?

We know the state of the economy. We know the state of mind since 11 September and we know that consumers are rethinking their priorities about what they really want in life. And so at advertising agencies where the eternal cat and mouse game is played out between those who make things and those who buy them, they are being very careful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't fake it; don't overclaim; don't trivialize where it is this product this round (ph) fit in people's lives. Come on, it's only a video (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where you can leave reality behind.

UTLEY: When it comes to getting your dollars, perhaps Las Vegas can sell itself as an escape from reality, but what's in store for those of us back in the real world?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the age of extreme hype is over. I think consumers are going to be looking for things that are a little more understated and with a lot more straight talk.

(MUSIC)

UTLEY: Is it possible that hype and spend could be history? Perhaps, as long as Americans are taking a hard look at how they balance work and family and whatever else is important in their lives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you want time or money? Would you rather work a little bit harder, earn a bit more, or go home and see your kids play soccer?

UTLEY: Which raises a question of possible heresy in this ultimate consumer society where too much has never seemed to be enough. Is it possible that we've reached a point where at least for the moment, most people have most of what they really need and want.

For example, have you noticed the sprouting of self-storage businesses around your community? They have tripled in little over a decade. Americans have accumulated so much stuff that it's spilling out of attics, basements, and garages. Perhaps enough is enough.

So as advertising agencies plan and CEOs pray, what will consumers be buying this holiday season in the shadow of terrorism and recession?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Intimacy, I think, is going to be a very important part of this. I think we will see a rise in small personal gifts and things, you know, as simple as picture frames.

UTLEY: Picture frames, they're not exactly the big-ticket items that drive an economy, but then, intimacy is not your usual leading economic indicator. Right now, though, it is the leading human one.

Garrick Utley, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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