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Alain Giguère

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Does it horrify you to see so much sex in the media (TV, film, magazines, advertising)? 50% of Canadians say it does (and Rigoletto by Verdi)

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 02-06-18 at 12:10 p.m.

Over the years, brands have increasingly incorporated features and representations of a sexual nature in their advertising and positioning. "Sex sells," as every copywriter knows, as does eroticism and desire (especially for clothing and accessories). When consumers perceive something as sexy, its appeal is heightened. Television, film and music videos have all embraced this trend in their narratives. Indisputably, the use of sex in the media has intensified over time.

Some analysts talk about hypersexualization, accusing the media of being responsible for the early, even premature, development of children's sexuality. This ethical, post-sexual-liberation point of view is shared by a large proportion of the population today.

A society divided on the hypersexualization of media content

Since the 1990s, we have been using a rather incisive question which, according to our hypotheses at the time, was intended to monitor the inevitable decline in traditional sexual morality. To that end, we have been asking people if they agree (or disagree) with the following statement: "It horrifies me to see so many articles and pictures about sex in films, magazines and books." From the outset, we expected this question to reveal a growing majority of people who disagree with the statement. (We are well aware that our question from the 1990s does not mention all the media available today, but we believe that we can interpret the results in a more general way, by encompassing the current media environment.)

To our great surprise, however, the anticipated decline did not come to pass until quite recently. Even so, one in two Canadians (50%) still agree with this harsh statement ("horrified" is an exceedingly strong sentiment), which we consider a high threshold. Even in Québec, often the country's most permissive province, where 46% agree with the statement compared to 51% in the rest of the country, the variance isn't all that great. The Maritimes are the most conservative in this respect, with 58% agreement, while the other provinces and regions reflect the national average.

Youth more permissive, their elders more prudish

Age is a decisive factor in this phenomenon, and where we find the most divergence. Whereas 50% of the population as a whole agree with the above statement, this agreement falls to 43% among 18-24 year olds and rises to 62% among seniors 65 years of age and up. While there's nothing astonishing about such support among the older generations (65+), we consider two in five (43%) young people (18-24) agreeing with such an uncompromising statement to be a very high level!

The decline in traditional morality only goes so far

Interestingly, the decline we expected our questions to measure seems to have occurred only from 2006 to 2012. In fact, the statement garnered between 55% and 59% agreement from 1996 to 2006 (a solid majority of the population), whereas from 2006 until 2012, the proportion of Canadians in agreement with the statement declined from 59% to 48%-an 11-point drop in 6 years! Since then, it has fluctuated around 50% of the population.

Consequently, as sex in the media becomes more commonplace, more ordinary, it appears that we are becoming less exercised about it.

However, since 2012, we seem to have established a floor below which we do not want to fall. The population remains equally divided regarding their acceptance (or not) of sexual content in the media and advertising. Permissiveness and prudishness coexist in the country in equal measure. But what is most surprising is that, at 40%, prudishness (being horrified by a lot of sex in the media) among young people is not a negligible threshold.

Religious conservatism and postmodern ethics

Our original hypotheses led us to expect that the decline in society's more traditional, conservative and religious values would result in mores of greater sexual permissiveness. And that we would see this displayed in the media and in brand advertising. That is precisely what happened. Society, both in Quebec and English Canada, is definitely less prudish than ever before, but the stubborn floor below which people refuse to go indicates that there are other factors at work.

Indeed, our analysis of the values and hot buttons associated with attitudes to sex in the media indicates that this prudishness is being inspired by more than religious conservatism. There is a kind of postmodern ethic, associated with a sense of "the other" and with social responsibility, that rejects hypersexualization-a social, ethical and even ecological awareness that respects life and other people, and that rejects the abusive reduction of people to sexual objects.

This postmodern ethic has gradually been layered onto traditional religious morality, resulting in prudishness regarding the display of sexuality in the public domain. This explains the floor of 50%, below which we have not fallen for several years, according to the results of our question on attitudes toward sex in the media.

Balance and judgment will be required for brands and the media

The temptation is great for brands and content creators to use sex to attract consumers and audiences. The recipe is a simple one-and it works! But it does have its limitations and could easily become counterproductive, if the trend continues. If sex is overused, brands could see their "sympathy" equity eroded; the media could find their audiences dwindling.

Given the strength of the new post-modern ethic behind this prudishness, content creators will need to use good judgment to avoid objectifying people's bodies. There will always be a place for sensuality, but we would be wise to always "leave something to the imagination!"

Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi

With respect to my musical clip of the week, I feel obliged to mention that not even the opera world has escaped this trend of sexualized content. Nudity, in particular, has made inroads in many modern productions (notably British ones at the Royal Opera House!). Usually, the nudity is not offensive because of its relevance to the narrative.

This week's musical extract is from a production of Verdi's Rigoletto at Covent Garden in London. It depicts the court of a duke who is luxuriating in licentiousness and a life of debauchery, which "horrifies" Rigoletto, the court jester. The "Duke's aria" (presented here) extols the merits of a life of pleasure with as many women as possible (Questa o quella - this or that woman).

Giuseppe Verdi: Rigoletto – Paolo Gavanelli, Marcelo Alvarez, Christine Schäfer, David McVicar (Dir.), Royal Opera House, London, 2009, BBC – Opus Arte.

Do you need to set goals to keep yourself motivated? 60% of Canadians tell us they do (and Così fan tutte by Mozart)

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 01-22-18 at 5:01 p.m.

One of the fundamental motivations in the psychology of individuals in modern societies is undoubtedly the need for achievement: a need for fulfillment, to progress and master high-level skills, to achieve difficult goals, a determination to win, to prevail.

The concept was popularized in the 1960s by American psychologist David C. McClelland. He concluded that in a society, the more people are driven by this need (the more "achievers" there are), the more sustained economic development and growth there will be (The Achieving Society - Princeton, D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc., 1961). Even though his theory did not go unchallenged - other factors undoubtedly influence a society's economic development - the fact remains that the presence of a critical mass of "achievers" will contribute to a society's dynamism.

Our research indicates that the "need for achievement" in the country has had its ups and downs in recent years. In 2017, the most recent year we measured this phenomenon, three Canadians in five (60%) agreed with the statement "I set difficult goals for myself that I try to attain".

Note that the most inspired, the most motivated by this need for achievement represent only 14% of the population. Nevertheless, when 60% of people agree with the statement, we reach a critical mass of "achievers" (both strong and moderate"), which sustains a certain degree of dynamism in our society.

It is also fascinating to observe this phenomenon's relationship to age. While 60% of Canadians agree with the above statement, this proportion is 75% among 18-24 year-olds. From there, agreement steadily declines in linear fashion to 47% in seniors 65 and over. As we get older, this dynamism, our need to achieve, seems to wither. A bit unsettling given our aging population!

Personal challenge and economic performance

The level of "achievers" also varies significantly by socioeconomic context, creating a very interesting indicator of society's general "mentality." During the 2000s, the need for achievement has progressed somewhat. From 2000 to 2006, as in 2017, 60% of Canadians consistently agreed with the above statement; from 2006 to 2012, the level gradually rose to 68%. The favorable economic conditions prior to the recession seem to have encouraged a certain amount of dynamism, a mentality that continued until 2012 despite the recession. During the recession, Canadians expressed some degree of resilience (several of our other indicators support this interpretation), but around 2012, this resilience began to run out of steam. At that time, Canadians gave up on the idea that life would be easier post-recession. They realized that life was becoming infinitely more complex and uncertain, that a new world order had arrived and that it was here to stay.

Thus, the level of "achievers" took a deep dive, from 68% in 2012 to 56% in 2016, a plunge of 12 points in four years! Even though the post-recession has proved no worse for most people than the recession itself (economically, socially, ecologically, etc.), our dynamism has obviously taken a hit.

However, in 2017, along with a significantly better economy, the level of "achievers" rose to 60%. While it would be unreasonable to suggest a "causal" relationship between the latest economic performance and our "achievers" measurement in the country (or vice versa), the synchronicity in the movements of these indicators is worth noting. However, since we often say in our business that "a swallow does not a summer make ," we must be cautious about this sudden rise in the level of achievers in 2017. Our next surveys on this topic will either confirm this trend, or not.

Goal-setting as a means of personal expression

It is fascinating to observe the role that goal-setting plays in the lives of the people who express a need for it. It becomes a source of meaning, a way to express who they are, to get in touch with themselves. Goals, their attainment and the way they are attained, become a way to express our uniqueness, who we are, a source of personal fulfillment, a kind of social marker. Goal-setting and challenging ourselves feed our identity, both for ourselves and as a way to communicate with others.

Indeed, goals are also about status, a way to mark one's social identity, to affirm the "strength" of one's identity.

Note, too, that these "achievers" fantasize about civil disobedience, as if to achieve their goals, any "means justify the ends"!

Goal-setting as social capital

Even though McClelland's thesis was dismissed as simplistic, too causal, people's need for achievement as a motivation remains an important driver in adding value to society, whether economic, cultural or otherwise. Given the anticipated changes in our society, it is certainly timely that a critical mass of individuals across the country are taking the bull by the horns, challenging themselves and transcending their limitation in significant ways.

Theirs will be a welcome contribution to the vitality of our society. Let's hope that the coming years will provide a favorable climate for this desire for achievement.

Così Fan Tutte by Mozart

This week's lyrical clip comes from Mozart's opera, Così fan tutte. One of the most famous challenges in opera is surely the challenge presented to two young men to prove the fidelity of their fiancées, while trying to make them believe that fidelity is unrealistic, utopian (thus do they all - Così Fan Tutte - they say, when discussing the alleged faithlessness of women).

The musical excerpt presents the exact moment when these young men are challenged to test the fidelity of their lovers. All in a superb, ultra-modern production by the Madrid Opera, produced by Michael Haneke, Austria's Robert Lepage.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Così Fan Tutte – Anett Fritsch, Paola Gardina, Juan Francisco Gatell, Andreas Wolf, Kerstin Avemo, William Schimell, Chorus and Orchestra of the Teatro Real de Madrid, Sylvain Cambreling (Dir.), Michael Haneke (Prod.), C Major Entertainment GmbH, Berlin, 2013.

A Short Break for the Holidays

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 12-21-17 at 10:41 a.m.

Loyal blog readers and friends,

I shall join the rest of you and take a short break over the holidays.

The longer I pursue this new publishing venture, the more I enjoy it, and your feedback.

More and more of you are following me online. Many of you have become faithful readers, for which I am exceedingly grateful. Thank you for your diligence and constructive comments. I greatly appreciate them.

As the holiday season is a time to relax (and I hope you will, too), I will resume my posts in the New Year.

Merry Christmas, and best wishes to you and your loved ones for a Happy 2018!

Alain Giguère
President, CROP inc.

Study on public services in Quebec

Categories: CROP in the news

Posted on 12-20-17 at 2:24 p.m.

Published on La Presse+, here’s a summary of a study on public services in Quebec conducted by CROP for GESTION, HEC Montréal’s magazine (French only).


Do you feel younger than your age? 82% of Canadians say they do! (And Falstaff by Giuseppe Verdi)

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 12-18-17 at 2:37 p.m.

A fountain of youth, an impressive social phenomenon, tremendous vitality-Canadians are demonstrating a remarkable desire for life!

On average, Canadians report feeling seven years younger than their actual age. Note: on this indicator, we find no significant regional or linguistic variances.

We measure this phenomenon in a very simple way. After asking survey respondents their age, we ask them how old they "feel" they are. Then we subtract their chronological age from the age they feel. If the result of this subtraction is a positive number, it indicates that they feel older than their actual age (which is the case for the younger people in our society); if a negative number, that they feel younger than their age. In 2017, the average was -6.96 for the entire Canadian population 18 and over, indicating that Canadians feel seven years younger than their true age, as we stated above.

The older you get, the younger you feel (relatively speaking)!

Although, on average, people feel seven years younger than their real age, the difference increases with age (the result of the subtraction described above):

• Between 18 and 24 years of age, people feel 2 years older than their chronological age (they want to become full-fledged members of society);
• Between 25 and 34 years of age, they feel 1 year younger, but, on average, by 27 years of age, they feel their actual age;
• Between 35 and 44 years of age, they feel 5 years younger;
• 8 years younger between 45 and 54 years of age;
• 11 years younger between 55 and 64 years of age;
• And 14 years younger when they are 65 and older!

What this tells us is that people are refusing to get old. They display an increasingly marked desire to maintain all their faculties despite the aging process.

A greater vitality than before

What's more, this feeling of vitality has been growing in recent years. When we did this exercise in the 2000s, the differences between felt and actual age were smaller.

Indeed, while people feel on average seven years younger than their real age in 2017, this difference was 5.6 years younger in 2006. Our vitality is on the rise!

You might be inclined to conclude that the larger difference is merely the result of population aging, which is not entirely the case (although admittedly a contributing factor). Clearly, the new generations of older individuals feel younger than their counterparts did 10 years earlier! For example, the difference between perceived age and actual age in people 65 and over in 2017 is 14 years, compared to 10 years in 2006. That's a vitality gain of four years!

We are witnessing a unique societal phenomenon: a growing passion for life. The graph below is very eloquent in this regard.

A need for control over one's life, connection and engagement

Usually in my posts, I use values and hot buttons to explain the phenomena I'm analyzing. In this case, I must be particularly careful and nuanced, given the strong correlation between actual age and felt age. For example, 63% of people who feel 10 years younger than their chronological age are 55 or older (compared to 38% of the population as a whole).

But even so, the more people feel younger than their age, the more they display sociologically significant values and hot buttons that illustrate the sociocultural context of this vitality.

The more they are "young at heart," the keener their awareness of the uncertainty and turmoil "afflicting" the world today. For example, those who feel youngest relative to their age tend to be somewhat wary of change, uncertainty and the inherent risks of our era. But despite everything, even their perception of life today as a continual maelstrom of change, they do not feel overwhelmed. Instead, they feel in control of their lives and their destiny, with enough power over their lives to thrive. Moreover, they seem to find a certain amount of stress stimulating and energizing.

What has changed in the 10 years from 2006 to 2017 (the years we've been measuring this vitality) is that life had become more complex, more uncertain. The pace has accelerated.

The ability to maintain control in the face of life's demands also explains why people in the lowest income brackets feel older than their age. For them, stress, particularly financial stress, is counterproductive.

Among those "youngest at heart," there is also a strong sense of connection to nature, life and society, as well as to the people around them. These individuals express a strong ethical, social and ecological engagement, a willingness to do their part in our challenges times. This sense of engagement seems to nourish their vitality!

A society that is aging well!

This vitality is occurring in a context of remarkable progress in medicine, diet and healthy lifestyle choices, which also explains our findings. People are more aware of the prerequisites for healthy aging and are taking personal responsibility for it. All these factors seem to be coming together to produce the most enjoyable aging in the history of humanity (for most people, aging in the Middle Ages, was not a very pleasant experience!). And the social engagement of the "youngest at heart" might well prove contagious as the population continues to age.

We may be in a "virtuous circle," one that could prolong this trend of growing vitality in an aging society. Let's hope that socioeconomic conditions continue to support it in the coming years.

Falstaff by Giuseppe Verdi

My musical clip this week is from Verdi's Falstaff, the composer's last and only comic opera. Falstaff is an old man who refuses to grow old and, to maintain his vitality, tries to seduce two women at the same time! In this excerpt, Falstaff is trying to convince his followers to deliver a love letter to each of his prospective conquests (the same letter to both women). His followers refuse, invoking the principles of honour. Falstaff entrusts his letters to a page and dismisses them.

Giuseppe Verdi: Falstaff – Paul Plishka, Mirella Freni, Marilyn Horne, Barbara Bonny, Susan Graham, The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus, James Levine (Dir.), Franco Zeffirelli (Prod.), New York, 1992, Deutsche Grammophon.