Children have to be told repeatedly that no means no. Because concepts like parental respect have grown so inexplicably abstract, the average pre-adolescent continues nagging his parents upwards of nine times for a desired product. Twelve and thirteen year olds — the group most targeted by advertisers — nag their parents more than fifty times, continuing their unrelenting campaigns of harassment for weeks at a time. Can we have a pool, dad? Can we have a pool, dad? When delivered by a parent, phrases like “no, we will not take you to Mount Splashmore” feel less like big red stop signs and more like invitations for continued debate.
In children’s marketing circles, this technique is referred to as pester power. The Initiative Media firm acknowledges that fifty percent of all toy purchases would never have been rung up in a million years had it not been for the sweet, wailing nags of a child. That’s fifty percent across every conceivable category relating to children: toy purchases, trips to fast food restaurants, vacations to amusement parks — even automotive sales. Car companies offering vehicles with DVD players aren’t selling to mom and dad, those who can’t last more than five minutes without audiovisual stimulation.
Cartoon characters serving as brand mascots provide a quick and easy band-aid to an otherwise uninspired youth label. Colonel Sanders raps and spits into a drumstick-shaped microphone about eleven herbs and spizices. Ronald McDonald pops and breakdances in circles around a freshly-scrubbed rainbow of multicultural children who sit there lovin’ it. An updated, ostensibly “edgier” Bugs Bunny turns his baseball cap inside-out. Fat Albert’s ringtone wants to know Where You At. Donald Duck sports ever-blingier ba-bling, and Mickey Mouse looks more and more like those Tasmanian Devils. Even Apple Computer’s operating system is branded with a goddamn smiley face. Kids use icons, SMS shorthand and text messaging in lieu of more complicated concepts like complete words and sentences sculpted into structured conversation, and who better to push that agenda then a Trix rabbit clutching a Twix bar?
Kid marketing? Sounds like a retarded DJ name. Children aren’t burdened with mortgages, rent, groceries or basic utilities — unless mom or dad is makin’ them pitch in. They’re a highly lucrative market, with a spending power greater than the gross national product of countries like Finland, Portugal and Greece.