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Who pulls the strings- Kids in Advertising

Posted on 26 August 2010 by Cheryl Joy

Today’s world is tough! Especially for someone who is out there trying to sell. There is so much available to the consumer and making things worse is the fact that almost every product has a close substitute or two. How does a marketer ensure that his product enters the shopping carts of every person who swipes the golden card at the counter? Well, the answer to that lies in advertising…and clever advertising at that.

Zoom in to an ideal plush supermarket, if that seems hard to imagine then take the little store around the corner, in both situations who really makes the shopping ‘decisions’? Who contributes to having the major say in deciding whether a blue colour or a red colour make it to your shopping bag? Look around and the answer will be more than evident- it’s the kids. It’s that little bundle of hyper activity that tells his mom that ‘Ma I want. I want. I want.’ A demand that gets louder and more firm with every new advertisement that hits the screen.

Almost in all ads today there is a child who forms a central theme around whom the entire story is weaved, the reason to buy and for those big companies- the reason to sell. In all products right from insurance to air conditioners, you’ll be sure to find an occasional cute face popping out to make their choice evident. In a world where kids figure in the top of most priority lists, this makes the situation very apt to reality.

But kids were always important, weren’t they? We have been part of a society that plans its life and expenses around their children since ages. But what made advertising companies cash in on this idea so late? The answer to this lies in the fact that, though we live a very ‘kid centered’ life, today’s Indian is almost feeling guilty for having a life of his own.  Having targeted the urban populace for this discussion, I take the liberty of including only urban families in the context of this article. In such a context it is easy to note, that most families today have two earning members, the disposable income is increasing if not high and both parents in most cases are of a college graduate level. This ensures that in most cases both are working- both have their own set of aspirations and are not willing to let go of their individual dreams. We are part of a world where women do not believe in leaving their careers half way solely for raising a child and we are definitely not part of a world where the men want to let go of their careers in lieu of raising a family.

The result of this ‘I want all’ lifestyle that is new to the Indian mentality as such, is the fact that most of the people who are part of it, feel guilty for being there. They do not want to give up their new found freedom but at the same time regret the fact that they are not able to spend as much time with their kids as their own parents probably did. This realization causes a wave of compensatory behavior to come in. Resulting in what is that more often than not, an attempt to ‘please’ the kids in whatever way possible. The premise is that- if the child wants it and I get it for him or her, I am using my dreams to fulfill his dreams and wants and thus I am still a good parent. And so if there is a little boy crying on the aisle of a popular shopping market because he wants that colourful box of cereal that has vibrant posters in his favourite colours, in most situations, that little boy will get his mom to buy that box. Irrespective of whether it is better or more cost effective or even a healthier option, the colourful box will win because their advertisers hit the jackpot when they decided to target that kid, and many more like him.

Another probable explanation of this ‘kid dominance’ in the advertising scene could be that we live in an information age – An age where information on almost any possible product or thing is available at the click of a button. Interestingly enough this information seeps to the kids a lot faster than it does to the older ones. So much so that most kids actually know which car is a better option in terms of mileage or which computer is more user friendly, because he is exposed to that kind of information on a day to day basis. In such a situation most parents would automatically value the child’s opinion as they think that most kids today, do know a lot more than they did ten years ago, or even five.

The question thus is not whether kids are affective while advertising, because the answer to that question is answered every day when you switch on the television. The question is how long will the trend last and more importantly- what could possibly lie ahead!

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