From THE HINDU group of publications
Thursday, November 01, 2001


No kidding, ads are for kids

Ajita Shashidhar

A television or a washing machine, a cola, a fast food restaurant, a confectionery product or even an insurance policy - the one thing common to all these products is the use of kid power or what has come to be called `pester power' in most of their advertising campaigns. Lately, kids are at the centre of the strategy of most marketers.

``Most products in India, be it credit cards, banks or FMCG products such as a television or a refrigerator, are selling to families. Children today are at the core of the family and hence, can't be ignored. Moreover, research has shown that in India, if a child is used in a particular commercial, the likeability of the ad immediately increases,'' remarks Indu Balachandran, Vice-President and Senior Creative Director, HTA, Chennai.

In agreement with Indu is Madhu Noorani, Unit Creative Director, Lintas, who says, ``Most of the FMCG products are being used by kids and it is important to make a favourable impression on them about the brand. Moreover, kids have a lot of say in the buying decisions of the parents, as the parents want to give their best to the children. We have been using kids in our campaigns and they have always proved to be effective.''

Some of the campaigns which one can immediately think of as far as the use of `pester power' goes are Pepsodent, Whirlpool, McDonald's, Maruti and Pepsi.

The `Dishoom Dishoom' campaign of Pepsodent shows a school scene in which a kid using Pepsodent is enjoying his ice-cream, while his friend is being spanked by his mother for doing the same thing, which is supposed to be bad for the teeth. The commercial signs up with the Pepsodent user saying, *`Dishoom, Dishoom to Pepsodent ka kam hai' (It is Pepsodent's job to do *dishoom dishoom).

``Pepsodent is a family health brand, and kids are central to the category. Therefore, since inception, we have been using

kids in our advertising,'' remarks Madhu of Lintas, who is in charge of Pepsodent's advertising campaign. ``There is always a conflict between mothers and children when it comes to eating things which are considered bad for the teeth. In this commercial, we have linked the brand proposition, Pepsodent fights germs hours after brushing, to a consumer's benefit. The emotional benefit is that the mothers needn't fight with their children and allow the toothpaste to do the fighting,'' she adds.

``All mothers are deeply concerned about their children's teeth, and this campaign has given us an opportunity to gain the empathy of young mothers,'' remarks Debjit Rudra, Marketing Manager, HLL Oral Care. Rudra says using children has helped them gain a significant share in the oral care market. ``Pepsodent has a market share of 16.4 per cent,'' says Rudra.

Speaking about the use of pester power in their campaigns, Vikram Bakshi, Managing Director, Connaught Plaza Restaurants, franchisee of the McDonald's chain of restaurants in New Delhi, says,``McDonald's has projected itself as a family restaurant all over the world and children are an integral part of a family. Moreover, kids are no longer passive members. They play an active role as far as any buying decisions are concerned, be it a television, a music system, or even decisions such as which restaurant the family should visit over the weekend.''

``Children are special to us and our communication reflects the same,'' adds Amit Jatia, Managing Director, Hardcastle Restaurants Pvt Ltd, franchisee of McDonald's in Mumbai.

One of the earlier campaigns of McDonald's showed

a little boy being taken to a McDonald's restaurant by his father after a disappointing performance in a poetry competition at school, to cheer him up. Pleased with the ambience and the burger, the kid makes another attempt to recite his poetry and is applauded by everyone at the restaurant. Similarly, the latest campaign revolves around a little boy who is unhappy about moving to a new house, leaving behind his old friends and neighbourhood. After moving into the new house, his sister cheers him up by showing a McDonald's restaurant across the street. ``The ad campaigns highlight that McDonald's is a constant companion and makes people feel special,'' remarks Jatia.

The other commercial, in which the use of a celebrity along with a kid has caught the imagination of consumers, is Pepsi and its campaign featuring Amitabh Bachchan and a kid. The commercial shows a thirsty Amitabh Bachchan dropping in at a house since his car had broken down. The entire family is overwhelmed at the superstar's entry, but not so the youngest member of the family who refuses to part with the only bottle of Pepsi in the house. He is least affected by the superstar's overtures, and instead signs off by saying *Aap kya mujhe ullu samajhte hain (Do you think I am a fool)? ``The latest Pepsi ad has used the kid route to promote itself as a family drink,'' remarks Indu of HTA, the agency which has created this campaign.

``Our latest campaign has scored as high as 98 on a scale of 100. The script this time was tailormade for the entire family,'' remarks Deepak Jolly, Executive Vice-President, Corporate Communications, Pepsi Foods Ltd.

Talking about kids being major influencers of buying decisions in the family, Suguna Swamy, Creative Director, Ogilvy & Mather, Chennai, says an advertisement can ``engage'' a child into a product, but the child can never impose a decision on the parents to buy products such as a car or a washing machine. ``Kids lend charm to the advertisement, but certainly can't be expected to influence buying decisions,'' says Swamy. ``I will use kids only for campaigns for kid-related products such as confectionery or those which have a strong association with kids,'' she adds.

However, Swamy also feels that if a child is properly used in a campaign, it will definitely make a difference. She refers to the Maruti Esteem campaign in which a child, after getting his report card, dreads how his father would react to his poor performance. To save his skin, he asks his father whether they could go for a long drive, knowing well that his dad is always in a good mood when he drives his new Esteem. ``The campaign is extremely charming, and very subtly says that fathers are suckers,'' remarks Swamy.

She also mentions the Clinic Plus campaigns, which she says has been very logically built around the mother-child relationship. ``The product is targeted at those families who are traditionally soap users and have upgraded themselves to shampoos. And the campaign shows that every mother wants her child to have a better life than hers. The use of a kid in these campaigns are absolutely apt.''

Some of the campaigns in which Swamy feels that the use of kids is quite unnecessary are Santro Zip Drive and Ujala. ``The use of kids in the Santro campaign along with Shah Rukh Khan doesn't convey any message at all,'' she says. ``Similarly, the Ujala campaign also doesn't make sense. No kid will ever ask his friend whether he has switched over to a whitening product such as Ujala,'' she adds.

Swamy is especially critical about the signoff in the Pepsi campaign featuring Amitabh Bachchan and the child. ``No child behaves like that with a guest. An excellent campaign has been ruined by an irresponsible signoff line,'' remarks Swamy.

Though Indu of HTA feels that the recent Pepsi campaign is charming, where the kid has a mind of his own, she agrees with Swamy that if a child is used in a particular campaign, the challenge is how ethically and charmingly he is used. She refers to the Maruti 800 commercial in which a child makes his father feel guilty for not possessing a car. ``It is a highly irresponsible campaign, in which `pester power' has been used negatively. On the other hand, the kid in the Maruti Esteem campaign has been used charmingly.''

Indu has also referred to a supari campaign in Tamil, Nijjam Pakku. ``Using kids for a product such as supari is obnoxious,'' she says.

On campaigns which have used kids ethically, Indu refers to the one on how wrong and dangerous it is to play with crackers, which was aired on television some time ago. ``This campaign appealed to their sense of fairness, and many kids have actually given up playing with crackers. This campaign contains one of the most brilliant uses of pester power,'' she says.

A child does have tremendous influence on his parents, but how effectively and ethically this influence is used in advertisements is entirely dependent on marketers as well as ad makers.

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