Thursday, December 06, 2007



What is Pester-Power? At its simplest it means kids – from age 3 to 18 – pestering (read: nagging, whining, badgering, irritating, harassing, annoying) the living hell out of their parents to buy advertised products! This terminology was born – where else but the capital of obscene conspicuous consumption – in the USA in the late 70’s when this phenomenon first raised its ominous head. Very soon it became an uncontrollable epidemic-like reality-turned-nightmare!

Truth is, kids (traditionally) have always nudged and pushed their parents to buy stuff, but never was it a hair-tearing, cardiac-arrest routine, right? This avtaar is a fairly new phenomenon and accurately reflects the changing contours of the child-parent relationship in a fast-altering sociological landscape. Today, thanks to an insatiable, all-pervasive consumer society, sharper kids, exposure to a 24x7 media onslaught, peer pressure, double-income families leading to more disposable income and finally the “guilt” factor, parents seem to be caving in to pester-power much more quickly. Marketers, (forever tracking which side the bread is buttered and how fast the cookie crumbles), have been quick to leap in and create a whole array of irresistible children-friendly wants and needs that get the kids really charged! Today’s kids want more and they want it now!

Fact not fiction. According to the recently released Disney’s Kidsense 2007 survey, 63% kids are discussing products that span not only conventional kiddie categories, but go across the spectrum. This means that they go beyond the traditional clothes, sweets, bicycles and toys range to embrace DVD players, cars, mobile phones… even holiday destinations! The interesting and revealing part is that many parents today actually turn to their children for information regarding hi-ticket, hi-end, techno stuff. So the age of the Alpha pup is here and kidfluence is getting bigger each day. Communication guru Santosh Desai, CEO, Future Brands believes that today more than ever before, “we are all children of the age of consumption. Kids are hotter and hipper with the new lingo jargons of this phenomenon than their elders and therefore more comfortable with it.” No wonder they are constantly tuned-in or logged on to the latest trends! In this new environ of KGOY (Kids Getting Older Younger), soft toys and board games are quickly dumped for ACs and iPods. In fact, apart from booze and condoms – insists the irrepressible Prahlad Kakkar – kids today have a say in pretty much all the purchases made at home. And boy, do they exercise it! Moon-Moon Dhar, a working mother with two kids (aged 12 & 6) has that glazed look when talking about Pester Power.
“Oh, Pester-Power has arrived in India and is a total reality! My six year old tells me that I should take Tata Sky and cable is crap! I have to spend close to two hundred bucks a strike to see Bhool Bhulaiya and not Laga Chunri Mein Daag because the kids say so. As for their own stuff – food, entertainment, clothes, toys – that’s a different (and scary) ball-game! He has his own birthday list, dictates the menu (“no samosas please. Kids hate it!”); and explains why two varieties of Pizza’s should be ordered (“there are vegetarians also and everybody doesn’t like chicken, mamma?”). Amit Sahai, Media Manager, Perfect 10 Advertising and father of a 12 year old son, categorically believes that everything is not negative about this phenomenon and it’s wrong to perceive it in that manner. “Today’s kids are smarter, savvier, powered with a stronger sense of curiosity, more exposed to the media (than us in our early years) and in every way more knowledgeable about some categories of products than us. So, if they advise – or demand – something, it might be a good idea to see it in that light instead of pester power!” Also, he believes the age of self-denial and simple living and high thinking is clearly over. Parents slog to give their kids the best. Also the parent-child equation has changed dramatically “to the extent that they go beyond information to becoming consultants in the final purchase pattern.” Sahai lays bare a very critical point. “If your child is a pampered, spoilt brat, whose fault is that? If your parenting is right then there is no fear of pester power. The decisions will be informed and mutually agreed upon. At the end of the day, if you give your kids the power of freedom, responsibility and accountability, it can work wonders.”

Designer Seema Sethi – with two daughters aged 14 & 8 – doesn’t waste any time agreeing to the trials and trauma let loose by Pester Power! She gives the example of her younger daughter dismissing locally made pencils (NATRAJ) to go for foreign makes because “they are really cool!” Also, she just had to see OSO (Om Shanti Om) ASAP, otherwise she would not be considered with it and trendy!” Journo Sapna Khanna agrees. “My seven year old daughter made me take a conducted tour of at least 3 shops before she condescended to approve of a dress! Madam certainly has definite opinions and I dare not go against it. It won’t work!” As for her 12 year old son, he is into hi-end techno stuff and luxury cares, “which frequently makes us very nervous, but in some ways forces us to work harder and raise the bar to fulfil their expectations.” However, both Seema and Sapna concede that when the crunch comes, they know where to draw the line. So, do the kids listen then? “They moan, groan, complain, sulk … but eventually get the message.”

So, eventually, what does Pester Power mean to you… an early loss of innocence or a leap of knowledge and awareness? Your call!


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