Advertisers help parents beat commercials

THE ADVERTISING industry issued practical advice yesterday to help parents to cope with the annual outbreak of "pester power" from their children in the run-up to Christmas.

But just as the Advertising Association, which represents advertisers and agencies, was urging parents to encourage family television viewing and involve children in buying decisions, many in the marketing business denied such a thing as "pester power" existed or, if it did, that they were at all responsible for it.

Conscious of the glut of advertisements promoting any number of toys and computer games, the association has issued a booklet outlining ways in which parents can fend off the "I want" tendency rife among children at this time of year. It advises parents, for example, not to feel guilty about not buying something that is beyond their means. It urgescompromise where feasible, but otherwise to stand firm.

The self-help guide is a further attempt by the association to fend off the threat of tighter controls on advertising to children. In Sweden and Norway, ads aimed at under-12s are banned. The Swedes are apparently keen to use their EU presidency in 2001 to ensure that stricter rules are applied across Europe.

While such a move would be welcomed by Friends of the Earth, which is arguing for a pre-9pm watershed ban on children's advertising as part of its campaign to stem consumerism, it would be opposed vigorously by the advertising industry.

Children's advertising in Britain is controlled by Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre guidelines, which stipulate ads "must not encourage children to pester or make a nuisance of themselves to other people. Phrases such as `ask mummy to buy' are unacceptable". And broadly speaking, the controls appear to work. The Independent Television Commission, which polices commercial television, receives "a handful" of complaints about advertisements that allegedly exploit children's desires. None of them has been upheld.

Agencies say that although their work is aimed at stimulating demand for products, they are just one of several factors at work. "`Pester power' is a misused catchphrase bandied about by consumer groups who have not given it much thought," says Jane Mathews, managing partner of J Walter Thompson, whoseportfolio includes Smarties, Dairylea and Frosties. "Peer pressure and what they see and feel around them is far more important. What their parents say, their older brother or sister say, is a much greater influence.

"[Pester power] also dodges the issue that parents can just say `no'. It's part of a bigger society thing where people do not want to accept responsibility. They prefer to blame someone else, in this case advertising."

Martin Phelps, business director of Ogilvy & Mather, which handles Fisher Price, Barbie and Hot Wheels, admits that television images do condition young minds, but says programmes are far more significant than the commercials in between. "You only have to look at Teletubbies last year - no advertising, but massive demand," says Mr Phelps. "It's all about what their peers in the playground are saying. Word of mouth works brilliantly. Yo-yos weren't advertised."

Part of the fear that underpins the legislation in Sweden is research that suggests children under 12 do not fully understand the effect of adver-tising and cannot assess products. However, recent work by Dr Brian Young, a psychologist at the University of Exeter, shows young children are far more sophisticated than previously thought. According to Dr Young, by the age of five, 50 per cent of children know what an advertisement is attempting to do. By the age of eight, that figure rises to 80 per cent.

What no one disputes is that children are playing a more important role in a family's purchasing decisions, but this, say agencies, is because parents now tend to consult their offspring.

Research by the Kid Connection, Saatchi & Saatchi's specialist unit, estimates children have an influence in pounds 31bn of adult spending.

The chief difference at Christmas is that children do not need an invitation to say what they want.

"But what's the problem with that?" says Mr Phelps. "They are going to buy toys anyway so there is nothing wrong in a kid letting them know which one they want."

Three Messages Designed to Make Your Children Pester You

Lego: Young lad creates wonders with his Lego set, becomes superstar and is rewarded with ticker tape parade. However, we never see the fruits of his work as "it's in the box". The idea is to stimulate child's imagination and creativity, wholesome attributes that any right-thinking parent would be happy to cultivate.

Scalextric: Lad becomes dad, picks up son and regales him with the joys of Scalextric while waltzing around the maternity ward. Except he's holding the wrong baby. The ad recognises that the Playstation and replica kits are the staple of most homes and that the best hope for introducing Scalextric to a new generation is through nostalgia.

Sunny Delight: Children's soft drink launch of the year, as much based on the effectiveness of the whole marketing mix (in-store displays, money-off coupons) as the advertising. Still enjoyed high-profile TV promotion, in which boys open the fridge and find, to their joy, Sunny Delight. The message is aimed squarely at mother.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000+

£16000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Freight Forward Senior Operator

£22000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This logistics firm are looking...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map