Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Chevrolet.

Back in 1975, a television commercial introduced us to a memorable jingle about America, and what is American, "baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet." If you don't remember the ad campaign, it is on YouTube, like so much else.

The ad begins with "in the years that I've been living, a lot things have sure been changing." This is to bring our perspective to how things are, and to prepare us for the reminiscence to come. The ad laments that things have come and gone, and then asserts that some things never change, such as "baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet." It was a catchy ad. 

That tag line and jingle became very popular. Some in the advertising field opine that it was among Chevrolet's very best ad campaigns ever. Change is hard for everyone, and being reminded of constants in our lives can be comforting. But are they really constants?

We came close to losing Chevrolet a few years back. The General Motors that many considered "to big to fail" actually failed. Chevrolet survived as part of the new GM that emerged from bankruptcy. The new Chevrolet is showing strength in the marketplace

Interestingly, the 1975 Chevrolet ad features the Chevette and Monza, two models that struggled for acceptance by the public, much like the Ford Pinto. Essentially, we were being asked in 1975 to accept a new "normal" for automobiles, and American manufacturers were being driven to smaller vehicles by the public's perceptions of imported cars and pocketbook issues resulting from rising gas prices. Two examples of market influences changing our economic environment. 

Baseball is perceived to be an American constant. However, there have been some stories in the news recently about less than encouraging attendance in some stadiums around the country. Twenty-one of thirty teams had decreased attendance in 2013 compared to 2012. The overall attendance decrease was 1,455,682, about -4%.

I got started on this thought process when I recently read that sales of the great American hot dog are declining. As an aside, July is National Hot Dog month. According to one industry association, "people eat 8 billion hot dogs in the U.S. between Memorial Day and Labor Day—150 million of those on the Fourth of July alone." Will you be grilling some dogs tomorrow? Despite those figures, hot dog sales are down in America for each of the last three years according to Bloombergs. The decline last year alone was three percent. The decline is not industry-wide. One manufacturer, Nathan’s Famous, reports sales up 17% by comparison. 

The question to which this all leads is why. I realize we haven't touched on apple pie, but these three iconic elements of the 1975 jingle are all demonstrating change. An increasing demand for Chevrolet and decreasing demand for baseball and hot dogs. 

One explanation offered for the decrease in hot dog sales is that the American palate is broadening, that is there are more choices in the food market. A food journalist quoted by Bloomberg says “I would be willing to bet that more Americans, and especially younger Americans, now eat nachos or tacos than hot dogs.” He predicts continued decline in hot dog sales. It may be that greater choices in spectator sporting is likewise contributing to baseball's woes. 

The point is this, change is part of our lives. While we may find comfort in the way things were, or our perceptions of the way things have always been, the truth is that there are few constants in the world, and our industry. Despite the jingle's reassurance, even iconic elements of Americana change. The Florida OJCC has been a champion of change in the first decade of the Twenty-first Century, and more change is coming.

We started our new fiscal year on July 1. It is a natural time to reflect on the changes of the past year and focus on our future plans. Last year we implemented the OJCC data interchange with Department of Revenue (DOR), and changed a large part of distributing child support arrearage data. We also implemented e-service on carriers and third party administrators, which involved revising our e-filing program and cleaning a tremendous volume of data in our database. Both are conveniences to attorneys and others in the dispute adjudication process in Florida.

We are working now to consolidate our access to child support data maintained by the various Circuit and County clerks throughout the state. We have high hopes that we will soon be in a position to provide the workers' compensation market with "one-stop shopping" for child support arrearage data. This will mean the data for both DOR and the Clerks will be available through your local OJCC office. A real game-changer, resulting in significant cost and time savings for the  marketplace. 

Change is all around us. Perhaps we cannot prevent change, but as likely we can control how we each react to it. Baseball teams and hot dog manufacturers might be well served to ask their customers the question I am asking you. That is, how can the OJCC serve you better in the next year? Please email your suggestions, ideas, and criticism to me, We look forward to a productive and progressive 2014, let me know how are efforts could be better focused to bring you value. 

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