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
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine