Competition, Market Position, and Statistics

Watch this video a few times. It’s funny. It’s catchy. It’s kitsch.

Now watch it a few times more. The ad, for a Lada VAZ 2109, appeared sometime in the 90s. It reflects the influence of MTV and other cultural imports from the West, but the details betray it’s command economy provenance. The snow appears trodden and dirty, the trees barren, the background architecture bleak. The car has headlights that flash in time to the music, but their dim yellow glow fails to dazzle.

It’s not the badly sync’d instrument solos, or that they portray the car’s owner as a bespectacled goof, it’s the permagrey sky and general bleakness of it all. One thing you can trust of Fifth Avenue: no matter how bad the product or the concept, their ads are technically flawless and the images sparkle. A Western ad would have featured windswept virgin snow below skies painted with the kind of puffy cotton clouds that dreams are made of.

The problem isn’t that the advertisers didn’t know how to produce an ad to compete with those from Western ad agencies, the problem is they didn’t know they were competing.

And then I come across this report from the National Center for Education Statistics:

During the 2004 fiscal year, academic libraries in the United States added 24.6 million books and other paper documents to their collections, bringing total holdings to 982.6 million. During the same year, a typical week saw 1.4 million academic library reference transactions (including computer searches), and total academic library expenditures were about $5.8 billion.

NCES was reporting on 3,653 libraries, but they don’t offer the statistic I really want: average number of reference transactions per FTE student. And nowhere does anybody appear to ask the question: how do our 5.6 million monthly reference transactions (2004) compare to internet search engines’ six billion monthly transactions (2006)? (And, um, how does satisfaction compare?)

With Time Magazine naming you as person of the year for 2006, why are these stats centered on libraries and not patrons? Why is the internet so poorly represented? How will we serve an internet-native generation?

Hats off to Jalopnik for pointing me to that ad.